Your Sister's Sister: Toronto Review

Your Sister's Sister - Movie Still - H - 2011
Toronto Film Festival
'Humpday' helmer adds notes of drama to awkward comedy in winning three-hander

Following up "Humpday" with another low-rent charmer, Lynn Shelton moves from two- to three-character dynamics.

Following up Humpday with another low-rent charmer about a thirtysomething dude trying to find his way, Lynn Shelton moves from two- to three-character dynamics in Your Sister's Sister. Though it lacks the outrageous premise that helped the last film break through, the writer/director's growing reputation should ensure an eager audience at theaters.

Returning from Humpday (and somehow finding time between his own burgeoning behind-the-camera career with brother Jay), Mark Duplass plays Jack, who's in love with best friend Iris (Emily Blunt) but hasn't been able to pursue her since the death of his brother, Iris's ex-boyfriend, a year ago.

Seeking some head-clearing alone time at Iris's dad's island getaway in Puget Sound, Jack instead finds Iris's sister Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt), licking her wounds after ending a seven-year lesbian relationship. The two actors play beautifully off each other -- DeWitt dryly tolerating unwanted company, Duplass endearingly over-explaining every infelicitous act or comment.

One bottle of tequila and some very funny banter later, the two have a sexual encounter so one-sided and quick it might guarantee Hannah sticks with women in the future. The inevitable morning-after awkwardness is magnified when Iris shows up unannounced and Jack instinctively knows she mustn't find out what happened in her bed.

Shelton could easily have stayed here, mining awkwardness and anxiety for a laugh-filled half hour before giving Jack and Iris a rom-com connection. But she pushes the scenario, adding a whopper of a betrayal that moves the needle from comedy to family-crisis mode, and (thanks in part to always-engaging performances) proves she has range beyond cringe comedy. The sober, reflective scenes that follow are convincing, and if the movie's sweetly earnest resolution scene plays a bit too easily, we like the characters too much to object.

PHOTOS: 13 Films to Know at the Toronto Film Festival

Though competent within its own realm, the picture's HD photography is less lovely than it might have been, particularly in landscape shots where gorgeous Puget Sound landscapes suffer from video pixelation. The director's preference for less expensive video in scenes involving lots of improvised dialogue is understandable, but trees tend to stick to the script, and a slightly richer visual palette could have broadened this worthy tale's appeal.


Venue: Toronto International Film Festival
Production Company: ADA Films LLC.
Cast: Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt, Mark Duplass, Mike Birbiglia.
Director-screenwriter: Lynn Shelton.
Producer: Steven Schardt.
Executive producers: Jennifer Roth, Vallejo Gantner.
Director of photography: Benjamin Kasulke.
Production designer: John Lavin.
Music: Vinny Smith.
Editor: Nat Sanders.
Sales: UTA/Submarine Entertainment.
No rating, 89 minutes.