Grief stricken, anger stricken, cancer stricken, My Sister’s Keeper, based on the Jodi Picoult novel, is one of the most stricken movies I have seen in recent memory. My Sister’s Keeper sloppily jerked tears in spite of inconsistent acting and overly edited writing.
When their oldest daughter Kate (Sofia Vassilieva) is stricken with leukemia and no match can be found, Sara (Cameron Diaz) and Brian (Jason Patric) make a morally dubious choice of manufacturing a perfect donor baby. After years of invasive procedures, side effects, complications, and pain, Anna (Abigail Breslin) hires a lawyer, Campbell Alexander(Alec Baldwin) to get the legal right to her own body. Enraged Sara spins out of control, frantically trying to force Anna to save Kate by donating a kidney against her will.
My Sister’s Keeper opens with a droning explanative dialogue given by Abigail Breslin. Not only does it go on for too long, but it offers little information that we don’t learn otherwise during the film, and Breslin sounds like she is reading from a piece of paper for the first time. Emotionless and cold, the first few minutes set the tone for the rest of the movie; situationally heart-breaking but, lacking in the execution to make My Sister’s Keeper anything more than a good momentary cry.
The first few minutes are not Breslin’s only wobbles. She, and the rest of the cast for that matter, cannot seem to get a grasp on the emotional nuances required for their roles. Teeter-tottering between stale and sincere, their performances made me feel like a dog on a choke chain; trying to run in the moment but always being pulled back right when I might get my stride.
It took me a while to realize, but it wasn’t entirely the cast’s fault. The writer/director Nick Cassavetes, writer Jeremy Leven, the editors and nine producers were obviously trying to force the viewers to obey their emotional commands, most predominantly being: “Cry, damn it!” They languish in scenes with no plot significance, no dialogue, no special attention to acting, set, or surrounding, just to watch a dying girl look like she is dying and extract tears they did not earn. It often feels like a run of the mill Lifetime Network movie with the occasional kitten drowning or live baby burning shoved in for emotional effect. We are nearly strangled on tears for ten minutes at a time but it is just topical grief without emotional attachment. As soon as the tears dried up and the drive home was finished, the movie didn’t mean anything anymore.
It is obvious, even before you learn there are nine producers of various kinds, two writers, one director, editors and a novel to start from that there were too many alphas trying to train the audience. The editorial bloat coming off My Sister’s Keeper rivals any mental bloating I have ever felt.
I don’t want the editorial bloat to think their use of music went unnoticed by me either. Instead of demanding exceptional acting from the cast or editing scenes to fill the screen with deep feeling, the bloat used music to precipitate affect. The melodic accompaniments can be stirring, but in the end they are just worthless vitamin supplements for the My Sister’s Keeper junk food diet.
Even though I knew I was eating empty calories, I could not stop crying. I don’t know if it is because I am very close to my sister or if I have personally witnessed a mother lose her daughter to cancer, but I was inconsolable during parts of the movie. Instead of feeling touched at the end though, I felt manipulated and a bit peeved at the bloat.
In the event a male member of the family needs punishment or you need an excuse to cry, rush out and see My Sister’s Keeper. Otherwise, donate the money you would have spent to Shriners Hospital or the Leukemia and Lymphoma Foundation; it will be a better use of money and the sentiment will be more heart-felt.