Friday, July 3, 2009

A Movie Review: My Sister's Keeper (2009)

Director- Nick Cassavetes
109 min; PG-13

Anna - Abigail Breslin
Kate - Sofia Vassilieva
Sara - Cameron Diaz
Brian - Jason Patric
Jesse - Evan Ellingson
Taylor - Thomas Dekker
Campbell Alexander - Alec Baldwin

It’s been a little while, but you can officially add My Sister's Keeper to the list of films that have made me cry. Thankfully I was able to slouch down in my seat, tilt my head backwards against the seat, and sort of flutter my eyelids so that no one could see it, but yes, it was there. And I hope you all experience this as well.

Nick Cassavetes (The Notebook (2004)) directs this wonderful piece that deals with themes of death, family, and even law in reasonably realistic fashion and in ways to which so many of us can relate.

The premise of the movie is that Anna (Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine (2006))) wants to sue her parent’s for ‘medical emancipation’ of her body, since the main reason she was conceived, in a Petri dish, with scientific help, was to harvest her own bodily organs and fluids to help keep her older sister Kate, who suffers from a rare form of cancer, alive. This is not a science fiction movie, and though there is very little in the film that touches on the actual conception of Anna, there is some scientific fact-based assumptions being made.

Kate (Sofia Vassilieva) is absolutely wonderful as she portrays a vibrant, youthful, yet dying child, who is surrounded by a loving family, yet one that is in turmoil. Kate’s illness has put a strain on everyone, including her parent’s Brian (Jason Patric) and Sara (Cameron Diaz), her brother Jesse (Evan Ellingson) and of course her sister, Anna. Diaz and Patric put in very strong performances as parents torn apart while striving to save their family. I wasn’t sure at first if Diaz’s portrayal of the mother as such an overbearing and relentlessly coldhearted woman would be the right feel, but ultimately it worked out very well.

If the movie lacks in any specific area it is simply that it loses focus at some point. This really is the story of Anna and her outward ambitions to be given her right to choose what she wants. At some point. however, this becomes the story of Kate and her struggles and triumphs. In the end the film is brought back nicely and it really does not hurt the overall appeal of Anna being her ‘sister’s keeper.’

Unfortunately, and I really don’t see why, the director chose to go with a lot of voice-over work to tell us back story. I am not necessarily a hater of voice over to compliment a film, but in this case, from the very beginning, it is too much of a recurring element. Please trust the audience to pick up on some of this, especially when the actors are doing a very decent job. Perhaps the most glaring omission I can think of is the lack of any real discussion involving the ethics of the entire situation. Certain items are brought up throughout, especially at trial, but what of the initial decision to conceive Anna for the purpose of harvesting her body? There really is a missing scene in this film.

Alec Baldwin does an excellent job as Campbell Alexander, the attorney for Anna with a ‘91%’ success rate. His role is neither a stereotype nor a caricature; it is very well grounded. The film actually revolves around the comings and goings of the trial and the deteriorating health of Kate, and Baldwin does a very good job of keeping us interested in both sides.

The real glue of this film, based on the novel by Jodi Picoult, is the relationship between the sisters and that of the mother and her dying daughter. Both girls do an amazingly good job of touching on some very difficult subject matter, and the smile of Kate alone is enough to melt your heart. This film is not an overly emotional heart-string-tugging-chick flick – at all. This is the portrayal of a family with real problems doing what they need to do to keep it together, and it is the story of two little girls facing some impossible decisions.
EDIT - copied wrong rating - updated now

**** out of 5

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