Thursday, August 6, 2009
My Sister's Keeper *1/2
Director: Nick Cassavetes
Cast: Cameron Diaz, Abigail Breslin
Jason Patric, Sofia Vassilieva, Evan Ellingson
Joan Cusack, Alec Baldwin
How can anyone say or think something bad about a cancer-related film? That seems to be the idea around which director Nick Cassavetes worked to deliver this manipulative, lazy excuse of a movie.
During the opening credits we learn that Anna (Breslin) was conceived in vitro as a perfect genetic match for her sister Kate (Vassilieva) who suffers from leukemia.
Her "spare parts", as called by a doctor, have kept her sister alive for more than ten years, but when she has to donate one of her kidneys Anna decides it's been enough. She goes to lawyer Campbell Alexander (Baldwin) and sues her parents to obtain "medical emancipation" creating the ethical dilemma at the center of the film.
Is she the bad seed or does she have a point?
As played by Breslin, Anna is the only character in the whole movie we would like to know more of. Breslin who possesses amazing abilites to act like a kid (not like a creepy grownup trapped inside a kid's body) gives her character little traits that make her believable and touching.
When she's confronted by her parents Sara (Diaz) and Brian (Patric), Anna goes into her own little world; most of the movie Breslin makes us linger between the two possibilities, only to be let down by Cassavetes awful screenplay and direction.
The thing about the film is that it has already taken sides and we spend the whole movie watching all the pain Kate has gone through.
From vomiting blood, to losing her hair, to falling in love and then losing that too and we rarely get insight into why Anna's plead also has justifications.
If this bias wasn't enough, Cassavetes goes the extra mile to make the whole movie seem like a collection of Kodak moments and upbeat musical montages that pop out of nowhere and last for ages (as that famous online spoof goes "is this a movie or a CD?").
Shot beautifully by Caleb Deschanel, who even makes the chemotherapy room look dreamlike, the contrast between the visuals and the emotions the characters try to convey is distasteful.
The actors do their best with what they're given though, Baldwin is good (even if sometimes he narrates like a detective out of a film noir), Cusack is moving as a sensible judge (despite the burden of corniness she's given to carry) and it's refreshing to see Diaz stretch her acting muscle a bit, even if she doesn't always succeed.
But most of this gets lost in the amalgam of cliché Cassavetes concocts. Whenever the action is steering to make Anna seem sane he inserts a random flashback reminding us why Kate is more important.
Then there's a whole subplot full-o-holes with their brother Jesse (Ellingson) who lingers in the streets and sits atop building rooftops harboring what seems like something awful which we never fully understand.
Exploiting likeability to the ultimate factor, Cassavetes also becomes aware that while cancer patients are impossible to dislike, so is Abigail Breslin.
And he gives her character a final twist that should make us shed the waterworks, but only serves to expose the utter lack of respect the filmmaker has for both the sick and the healthy.
Please, don't give this movie its shot.