Your Sister’s Sister

I’m not sure if the presence of Mark Duplass in this movie qualifies it as “mumblecore” or not, but either way, sign me up. He’s great.

He’s been getting a little more traction lately, what with his roles on The Mindy Project and The League, and despite the fact that he sort of has a singular look, he’s a rather flexible actor. He can at once adopt the schlub persona, the dickwad demeanor, the sensitive guy, or whatever, and add some sort of sane truth to it. He does just that in Your Sister’s Sister, which, full disclosure, you’ll probably only like if you really like him and Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt. There’s a whole lot of those three in this movie, and not a whole lot of anyone else. (Well, Mike Birbiglia is in it for about 45 seconds. Neat.)

The story of these three isn’t one that I relate to literally, because I have no siblings, but the emotional and social interactions between them are very real, complex, and sometimes even boring. Which is to say, like a real family. I’m going to have to spoil some things in order to give my full opinion of the movie, so heads-up.

Duplass is Jack, the guy who’s brother died awhile back, and the guy who’s still sort of in a funk over it. Blunt is Iris, who used to date the brother. DeWitt is Hannah, Iris’ half-sister. Iris sends Jack to her family cabin to get ahold of himself, Hannah is there unexpectedly, yada yada yada. Oh, except Hannah is a lesbian, so it’s a little odd. Then Iris shows up, and Hannah and Jack have to pretend they didn’t sleep together. And they have those conversations and they do those facial movements that you and/or your friends have had and done. You’re right next to the people you’re closest to, and yet you don’t want them to know something that they should know, because it might hurt them, even though you’ve always made these high-falutent pacts to be honest about everything ever. I like that the film pokes fun at that a little. No matter how open we all say we are, we’re just not. We hide shit, and we hurt each other, and it’s what happens.

Hannah’s decision to sleep with a straight man has more consequences than intended. She has to deal with accusations that she might have done it to get pregnant, she has to deal with the fact that Iris is actually in love with Jack, and she has to deal with herself not being as put together as the impression she gives. There is yelling and crying, but not so much of it that it seems saccharine when they reconcile. And they do reconcile, and the three of them deal with a tough situation in the most human way possible: They accept it. They accept that Iris and Jack should be together, and Hannah and Jack should have a baby together, and Iris and Hannah should love each other as sisters. They are a new type of family, and that’s all.

Keep in mind that, although on paper the lives of these folks sounds overly dramatic and/or quasi-glamorous, most of the interactions take place in plaid shirts inside a cabin. It’s like a bottle episode movie. But it works! Lynn Shelton, the writer and director, somehow makes it work. Who knows how. I can only imagine how the three actors must have bonded so uniquely in making this film. They had to become that new type of family believably enough to make the movie work, and they had to be so comfortable with each other to achieve the kind of natural, effortless intimacy that they have. And they had to be cooped up a little to become a little antsy, a little cabin-feverish (literally), and a little childish. Because it’s like stirring the pot for psychological boil-over. (Pardon the horrible metaphor. Or embrace it. Up to you.) Jack, Iris, and Hannah are mostly likable people, but they’re also man- and women-children. They’re selfish, but their actions really only affect the other two. It’s isolated egotism, and by the end of the 90 minutes, there is a unique, mature solution to their puzzle. They force each other to grow up.

See it, won’t you? It’s visually simple, emotionally complex, and quietly enjoyable.