Your Sister’s Sister
Directed by Lenn Shelton
It’s particularly disappointing that the fourth feature from Humpday writer-director Lynn Shelton, Your Sister’s Sister, devolves into tiresome high jinks and easy-out resolution, because it begins so promisingly. In the setup, there is something approaching wisdom about the substantial supporting role that siblings play in the self-definition process. Unemployed Jack (Mark Duplass) is still in a tailspin a year after his older brother died—the film opens as he gives a tone-deaf toast at a commemoratory ceremony—with no one left to model his bluntly earnest brand of masculinity both after and against. His brother’s ex-girlfriend Iris (Emily Blunt) convinces Jack to take some time to sort himself out at her father’s rural-Washington cabin, where he ends up sleeping with Iris’s surprise-guest half sister, Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt), a vegan lesbian who has holed up there after breaking up with her partner of seven years. Jack and Hannah decide not to tell Iris of their drunken liaison when she makes a surprise visit the next morning, later crawling into Hannah’s bed to confess her love for Jack (Duplass is all brash charisma for most of the running time). Lots of low-key familial sniping ensues—Blunt and DeWitt effortlessly describe the sisterly push-pull—but this is no Color Wheel analogue; Your Sister’s Sister is too unabashedly tender and too carefully responsible-adult in its point of view.
Like her mumblecore-affiliated gay-porn-on-a-dare comedy Humpday, Shelton’s latest is largely improvised (Blunt, DeWitt, Duplass, and bit player Mike Birbiglia are listed as “creative consultants”), but it’s a decidedly higher-fi affair, both in its more glamorous cast and its not-an-afterthought cinematography, which nicely captures the autumn light in the Pacific Northwest. Less happily, Shelton’s narrative outline becomes more derivative as it shifts focus from sibling give-and-take to roadblocked romance—the concealed-truth scenarios come to seem no different from the typical far-fetched sex-farce runaround; while the film is unusually optimistic about the feasibility of nontraditional family arrangements, the home stretch still plays as rom-com tedious, especially during one drawn-out mope montage. At least it takes a while for this unusually easygoing relations-crisis dramedy to squander the goodwill engendered by its sharp opening scenes.
Opens June 15