Review: Sisters

This article was originally published to The National Student on 11th December 2015

This year, seeing the lead character of Trainwreck and now of Sisters be women in their 30s and 40s who refuse to quite let go of their 20s party-lifestyles, we may be due a moratorium on the word ‘manchild’. A more gender neutral term is needed: like ‘The Un-grown’.

Sisters follows Kate (Tina Fey) and Maura (Amy Poehler), titular siblings of the picture. Kate is a single 40-something mother who’s recently been let go from her job and can’t find a permanent home. Younger sister Maura is divorced and still single after two years, worrying too much about other people in her nice, organised way to sort her own life out.

When their parents announce that they are selling their childhood home, the girls are outraged. In one last rebellious effort, they throw a house party for their old school friends, all of them grown up and fairly sad. The twist for the ladies this time however, is that uptight Maura will finally be able to let her hair down like she never did as a teen whilst self-proclaimed “brassy” and “un-grown” Kate has to play Party Mom.

It’s a very familiar premise, and nearly every single beat can be seen from the start. Yet it’s ever so slightly rejigged: think the overgrown kid syndrome of Step Brothers mixed with the party-centred plot of a Project X. Except with women.

In fact Sisters is part of the gender revolution in taking what was previously a tailor-made-for-males fantasy of irresponsibility, and changing the perspective. Not since Bridesmaids, more than four years ago, has a comedy been both grounded in our reality and about these sorts of women, stuck in their own personal limbo. But Sisters doesn’t have the consistency, the look, or the darkness of that superior film.

What it does have to its credit is two great lead performances by Poehler and Fey, both of whom are on form. Poehler manages to make the conceptually annoying Maura likeable and charismatic, because we can see that her awkwardness comes from a good place, whilst never misunderstanding what it is she wants. Seeing her failing valiantly at flirting with Ike Barinholtz’s James in a slightly over-extended sequence is charming in Poehler’s hands.

Fey meanwhile runs away with the show. Kate isn’t offered a lot of nuance in the script, as many of the comedic moments sell her as a bit of a brat. Yet her clear love and devotion to her daughter Haley (Madison Davenport), as well as how she teases Maura, gives Fey a lot more drama to work with. Her arc is the most interesting, and thanks to Fey’s charisma, she stays loveable and reliably hilarious.

Jason Moore directs this, and after his work onPitch Perfect this cements him as being a totally capable comedy director, if nothing new or fancy: the view he offers us of the party as it gets into full swing is predictable but entertaining, and as the house is gradually destroyed we can keep track of it.

Yet the film can’t quite capitalise on the metaphors inherent in the premise: what is written as the closing ten to 15 minutes should have been the last act, to mine more convincing drama from it. As it is, the stuttering multi-endings are fairly dull and overly sentimental. Yet just because a party starts slow and whimpers out, it doesn’t mean there wasn’t fun had, and for a significant portion of its runtime Sisters is one of the funniest movies of the year.

Sisters (2015), directed by Jason Moore, is distributed in the UK by Universal Pictures International, Certificate 15.

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