My Sister's Keeper - DVD Review

'I'm not a snooty anti-voice over film watcher, I think it has its place and time and can be used to good effect but really, who thought it was a good idea to give each and every character in this film a chance at it?'

Oh dear. Just when I thought I was safe to watch a drama based on a Jodi Picoult book, Nick Cassavetes has come along with this turkey, which is really, truly, an awful, awful film. On many levels. Awful. Like In The Hands Of The Gods. Or the plague.

I think I can generally be forgiven for expecting something out of My Sister's Keeper. There's enough talent here to at least warrant a hint of positivity and despite a resolutely dodgy acting CV, Cassavetes can count The Notebook amongst his directorial efforts.

Perhaps the atypical Picoult story should have been a red flag that there was something fishy happening here. As an author, she seems to have two random gambling reels she pulls before starting each work; one has a type of family on it (poor white, rich white, Amish, broken) the other a poignant issue, normally related to children (adoption, illness, bereavement).

This is no different. The family at stake here are middle-class and white and are led by hardworking blue collar father Brian (Jason Patric) and stuffy ex-lawyer Sara (Cameron Diaz). The issue is not to be sniffed at or joked about despite sticking closely to the Picoult formula: eldest daughter Kate (Sofia Vassilieva) has leukemia, youngest daughter Anna (Abigail Breslin) was a test tube baby, grown to be a perfect match for Kate in order to donate bone marrow amongst other things. Meanwhile in the side streams is brother Jesse (Evan Ellingson) and Aunt Kelly (Heather Wahlquist), both trying to help the family cope with the situation. All this however, is thrown into turmoil when Anna hires snappy lawyer Campbell Alexander (Alec Baldwin) to get her back the rights to her body and stop her parents from using it to support Kate.

Here's the first crucial problem: I didn't, not even for one scene, believe that the above assembled group were a family. Their emotions, as you would expect in this sort of terrible situation, are fraught and complex, but never once did I see them as a group: they are all individuals who happen to feel the same way about Kate's tragic situation. Perhaps the main reason for this is love, or rather the lack there of. I really saw scant amount of it during the film; concern, yes, empathy, yes, sorrow, plenty, but I never felt like I was watching any member of the family show love to anyone else.

Perhaps this feeling of emotional disconnectedness comes from Cassavetes overbearing use of voice over. I'm not a snooty anti-voice over film watcher, I think it has its place and time and can be used to good effect but really, who thought it was a good idea to give each and every character in this film a chance at it? There is a problem with Jesse's character anyway (in that he's not really needed, dramatically or otherwise) but the greater problem is that everything we know about him we are told by his own monologue. And unfortunately, the same is true for most of the characters. The reason why voice over is so derided is because it is often used by lazy filmmakers who can't or don't want to show us things and let us judge them, they instead want to tell us them - you know, in case we're too thick to get the message in a less direct way - often when that criticism is levelled I don't agree with it but here it's painfully obvious: Cassavetes thinks we're all idiots.

The problems continue on a really gargantuan level. Cameron Diaz' character for example is just horrible, a really terrible person who never, as far as I am concerned, shows any redemptive qualities, or behaves anything like a mother figure. Yet Cassavetes seems to think we should identify with her, or at least understand her, maybe by the end even forgive her. I didn't. Like a lot of My Sister's Keeper she is mindless and poorly developed in the worst possible way and, although with the above in mind you can understand why Kate keeps some key information from her, I couldn't understand her original actions as a character in any way.

It did pull at my heart strings occasionally (particularly during Kate's brief fling with a fellow cancer sufferer) and the issue here is important to understand in how devastating it can be for so many families, but educational value aside this is emotionally bereft and rather than wearing its heart on its sleeve, stuffs it up behind too many uninteresting characters speaking at you, rather than to you.




Look further...

'after the curtain went down on this vapid junk, there wasn't a moist eye in the house' - The News Of The World (Robbie Collin), 1/5

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