Your Sister’s Sister
Directed by Lynn Shelton
Written by Lynn Shelton
Starring Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt, Mark Duplass, Mike Birbiglia
Rated R | 90 Minutes
Release Date: June 29, 2012
In her new film, Your Sister’s Sister, Sundance award-winning filmmaker Lynn Shelton explores the complexities of interpersonal relationships with off-the-cuff humor and intimate authenticity.
Mark Duplass (Safety Not Guaranteed, The League) stars as Jack who, a year after his brother’s death, is still emotionally struggling and lost in life. He takes up an offer from his friend (and dead brother’s ex-girlfriend) Iris (Emily Blunt) to stay at her father’s isolated cabin to seek comfort and catharsis in solitude.
Upon arriving at the cabin, Jack meets Iris’ sister Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt), who is reeling from the abrupt end of a seven-year relationship. The two bond over a long night of drinking and swapping stories, a sequence entirely improvised by Duplass and DeWitt. As it usually does, the drinking leads to spontaneous, casual sex – which triggers a complicated, really awkward love triangle when Iris arrives for a surprise visit.
The Duplass Brothers (Mark and his brother Jay) have directed several feature films including The Puffy Chair, Cyrus, Jeff Who Loves at Home, and The Do-Deca-Pentathlon. You may have heard their work, along with Shelton’s, referred to as part of the Mumblecore Movement – a term used to describe independent, low-budget films heavily focused on naturalistic dialogue.
Personally I find ‘mumblecore’ to be a ill-fitting word for this particular sub-genere, leading the viewer to believe that it doesn’t matter what the actors are saying – but in films like Your Sister’s Sister, Humpday or Cyrus, the dialogue and interpersonal relationships are the most important aspect of the story.
Both Shelton and Duplass have a knack for finding the emotional authenticity of a situation, even if it’s a completely ridiculous scenario. Take Humpday for example: two heterosexual male friends Ben (Duplass) and Andrew (Joshua Leonard) find themselves locked in a “mutual dare” to make a gay pornography film as an “art project” between two straight guys and submit it to a film festival. Pretty absurd, right? But through the natural interaction of the characters and the awkward, documentary-style cinematography – we feel like an extension of the story itself – voyeurs watching very real, intimate conversations between people.
The same can be said with Your Sister’s Sister, which is a splendid example of the “three-people-in-a-room” style of filmmaking that is born out of low budgets and limited resources. Blunt, DeWitt and Duplass provide some great performances and Shelton is certainly progressing as one of America’s new voices in filmmaking.
For fans of comedy, you’ll notice a small part played by comedian and storyteller Mike Birbiglia, who recently directed his own full-length film Sleepwalk With Me. There’s this whole insane, totally improvised, sequence between Birbiglia and Duplass involving Hotel Rwanda and Revenge of the Nerds – enough said.
Duplass is really making a name for himself right now. Aside from being a pretty terrific writer, producer, and director – you can see him in four movies currently in theaters: Safety Not Guaranteed, People Like Us, Darling Companion and Your Sister’s Sister. He’s also got his gig on FX’s The League (totally improvised as well) alongside his wife Katie Aselton.
As for Shelton, her next film seems like it will be a departure from the enclosed, confined spaces of indie dramas. Her next film, Touchy Feely, just finished filming and features an impressive ensemble including Ellen Page, Rosemarie DeWitt, Josh Pais, Ron Livingston, and Allison Janney. DeWitt plays a massage therapist who develops a sudden repulsion to the human body, which sends her into this identity crisis as she can no longer perform her duties at work. The film is currently slated for a 2013 release.
If you’re a film geek with a sweet tooth for improvised dramedy and terrific performances, definitely give Your Sister’s Sister a look. There’s a genuine warmth and sensitivity to the film – an authenticity that can’t be replicated with rehearsed performances and script-driven narratives.
If you want to read more about Lynn Shelton and Your Sister’s Sister, check out this exclusive interview I did with the filmmaker for Creative Loafing!
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