A rustic rom-com for those fatigued from overexposure to the frothy mewling of Kate Hudson and bargain bucket succubus Katherine Heigl.
Jack (Mark Duplass) toasts his late brother’s memory with a barbed eulogy before a huddle of Merlot-sloshing middle-class pals in a cosy Seattle apartment. "Welcome to mumblecore country!" he might as well cry.
Don’t be put off by this initial resemblance, though, because Your Sister’s Sister, writer-director Lynn Shelton’s fourth feature, drags mumblecore’s lo-fi mantra onto a new plateau.
Narratively speaking, there’s none of the leftfield charm of Shelton’s jocular male-bonding satire from 2009, Humpday, or the Duplass brothers’ 2008 meta indie, Baghead. Jack, Iris (Jack’s dead brother’s ex) and Hannah (Iris’ lesbian sister) retreat to the girls’ family cabin for a long weekend of soul soothing, only to become entangled in an emotionally ugly ménage à trois before bickering, breaking down and eventually making up.
This is an unembellished study of friendship, family, love and loss delivered in a naturalistic, largely improvised anti-sitcom package. A rustic rom-com for those fatigued from overexposure to the frothy mewling of Kate Hudson and bargain bucket succubus Katherine Heigl.
Much of its success is down to the cast. Mark Duplass and Emily Blunt spent months getting to know their characters in pre-production, although, remarkably, Rosemarie DeWitt stepped in just three days before the 10-day shoot commenced after the original actress handpicked to play Hannah dropped out at the eleventh hour. All three share an authentic chemistry, but the real star is Shelton’s warm, incisive and tremendously funny screenplay.
Just when the loose conversational structure begins to gain momentum, however, Shelton breaks away from coffee table discourse and takes a step into the great outdoors. Turning her lens to the spectacular, Douglas fir-sprinkled vistas that neighbour the cabin, Shelton shows that she’s got a thirst for adventure as well as an eye for dysfunctional comedy.
Yet we’d much sooner have more snappy dialogue and awkward bedroom fumbling and less exterior procrastination next time.
Humpday was a hoot. More of the same please.
Likeable enough, but this is Shelton playing it safe.
Despite the majestic archipelago setting, not mumblecore’s most adventurous moment.