Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Sisters; what people are going to see when they can't get Star Wars tickets

It should go without saying that Sisters passes the Bechdel test, but somehow I couldn’t get it out of my mind that it has passed the test without making me feel all that appreciative for it. I think I shall stop talking about it. The big mystery of Sisters is the sisters. They’re both terrible in their own unique and contradictory ways, and then we meet their parents, and the questions start. How the heck did these calm level headed people wind up with these kids? It’s not genetics (Hollywood has trained us not even to care whether everyone in the family has consistent eye colours or even look vaguely like each other), it’s simple nurture. Kids learn how to be adults by watching the adults in their lives. How could Katie and Maura have learned how to be such complete idiots from watching their parents? Also, related question, when was the last time I saw Dianne Wiest playing anything other than the jaded mother of children refusing to grow up?

Sisters is a fun movie, though it’s probably worrying that my favourite moments in a “women’s movie” involved John Cena being impassive and macho. Cena isn’t an actor, but he’s weirdly perfect in this as the epitome of pointless manliness. He’s also pretty much the only person in the movie who hits conventional Hollywood standards for physical perfection; the rest of the case are believably battered looking middle aged people - mostly ringers from the dozens of comedy shows which owe Tina Fey and Amy Poehler varying levels of favours.

And in a slapdash occasionally misfiring way, it’s a pretty good comedy. It’s just that it’s dumb and lazy and I’d never thought of Fey or Poehler as dumb and lazy. They’re smart and sharp, and it’s a waste to make them play idiots. More than that, it’s a waste not to have them play their women for depth. These are performers smart enough to play sisters with problems and get us thinking. Instead they go to the well of dumb plumbed by every Hollywood comedy desperate for ideas, and have a big party. Which gets out of control and nukes everything in sight. This is the comedy equivalent of having a guy enter the scene with a gun, every five minutes.

Which led me into feeling old; not just the sheer number of movies I’ve seen, or chosen not to see, where the centrepiece is a party going wrong, but the way I felt about the party at all. The girls spent a boatload of money they don’t really have on buying party supplies, and then the party trashes the house which is not just the centre of their family’s past, but the centrepiece of the family’s plans to finance its own future. And I just felt myself cringing through every minute of it, getting more and more depressed at the size of the financial hole they were digging. This was not the party mood they were trying to build, I felt. Yet there I was.

Anyhow, it’s going to make a whole boat load of money from the people who showed up at the multiplex without booking Star Wars tickets in advance, so everyone is going to be fine, and will hopefully use the money to make something smart the next time.

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