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Movie Review: My Sister’s Keeper

June 26, 2009
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Don’t say I didn’t warn you

After viewing this movie, I found myself in quite a pickle.  Do I recommend that you, the reader go see this movie because it was quite good?  Or do I save you from the fate that befell me, namely a near-complete mental breakdown while watching it?  I’ll let you decide what you want to do, but I will arm you with some observations (spoiler free)  that may help you make your own decision.  Disclaimer*  I had a very hard time viewing this movie as a reviewer.  I kept seeing it through “mother of two daughters” eyes, which wrecked any objectivity I could aspire to have, so I’ll throw that right out there and apologize.

Make no mistake about it, this is not the cute little family film the marketers have led you to believe. The main movie poster shows Cameron Diaz and Abigail Breslin laughing, which is completely misleading, because there is absolutely no laughter in this film.  There are buckets and buckets of tears.  Based on the Jodi Picoult novel, this is one of the most depressing movies I have ever seen.  The tragedies endured by the Fitzgerald family are gut-wrenching.  Daughter Kate  (Sofia Vassilieva) has been stricken with cancer (leukemia), and her parents make the decision to have another child Anna (Abigail Breslin) in the hopes she/he will be a genetic match for her sibling.  Basically, the child is conceived specifically to be a donor, which haunts her throughout her life.  When her parents want her to donate a kidney to her dying sister, she decides enough is enough and finds a lawyer (played by Alec Baldwin) who helps her sue her parents for medical emancipation so she can’t be forced to give her kidney away.   While this courtroom drama is going on, her sister is slowly dying in the hospital, waiting for a kidney.

Not sad enough? Wait, there’s more. Through flashbacks we see the dying daughter meet and fall in love with another terminal patient she meets at the hospital (wonder where that will go?).  How about the parents marriage falling apart, or the brother tragically overshadowed by all the medical drama.  Still not weeping?  A twist in the final act will leave you a blubbering mess.  I literally was struggling not to embarrass myself with loud gasping sobs, and I’m not exactly known for my soft heart.

Directed by Nick Cassavetes (who directed The Notebook, which was downright jolly by comparison),  the entire movie felt like one huge sucker punch.  That being said, if that was what Cassavetes was striving for, he accomplished it, largely due  to some good acting.

Cameron Diaz showed some chops that quite frankly I would have never guessed she possessed.  She plays a steely ice queen mother who is determined to keep her daughter alive at all costs, including her other children and marriage.  I’m sure some people will think she comes across as a complete bitch, making some very poor decisions, but I empathized with her character.  I’m not sure what I would do under her circumstances, and she nailed the performance of a mom keeping her shit together despite horrific circumstance because she has no choice.  Ms. Diaz made the wise decision not to appear as a botoxed fembot, and it serves her well.  Her slight wrinkles add a convincing layer to her performance of a harried mom.

It was great to see Jason Patric on the screen again, but he really is a secondary character in the movie, and doesn’t have a lot to do here.  Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) proves she is not a one hit wonder.  She faces the unenviable task of portraying a girl that selfishly will let her own sister die just so she can have an unhindered life, and she is very believable. Sofia Vassilieva is amazing, and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

The movie  raises some prescient topics about medical ethics and genetic engineering which are not explored to any great extent. Cassavetes was apparently too busy winding up his next punch to be concerned with such things.

I suspect the people who will enjoy this movie the most are those who read the book.  Although I thought it was a good movie, I don’t want to ever see it again, and I can’t exactly say “Go see it, you’ll have a great time.”  However, if you’re in need of a good long cry, this movie will definitely do the trick.

Frothygirlz rating  7/10

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2 Responses to “ Movie Review: My Sister’s Keeper ”

  1. anne almirall on June 26, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    Nope, not going…No crying in public.

  2. Shannon on June 26, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    You are a very wise gal, Anne.

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