I went to see “My Sister’s Keeper” the other day, and I still can’t get the taste of earnestness out of my mouth.
From the first over-exposed shot of beaches, scrapbooks and poor, doomed Katie Fitzgerald (Sofia Vassilieva) you can tell you’re in for a classic Cassavettes uber-weeper (he also directed “The Notebook”). The Fitzgerald family is completely geared towards fighting for the life of young Katie, who has cancer, so much that the parents (Cameron Diaz and Jason Patric) actually have another child (Abigail Breslin) for the express purpose of using her to help keep her sister alive. The girl, Anna, sues her parents for the rights to her own body, so she doesn’t have to give her sister a kidney when she goes into renal failure.
Written by: Nick Cassavettes and Jeremy Leven
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Abigail Breslin, Sofia Vasillieva
Seen at: Boston Common Loews
The novel upon which the film is based was written by Jodi Picoult, the Queen of Child Misery, and Cassavettes in many ways is the perfect director to adapt it. Which would be perfectly fine, except for the fact that every moment from the first opening credit to the bitter, bitter end is narrated: every movement, sound, sigh and hiccup is deciphered by omniscient cast members; whenever a true emotion or poignant moment threatens to break the surface the voice-over is there to tamp it back down into its Lifetime movie box. Then it’s mixed with the predictable soft lighting and the near constant slow-motion, just to emphasize that what’s happening is SERIOUS and IMPORTANT and that this is a movie about life and love and family and death, in case you didn’t realize it before.
While focusing completely on Katie’s illness, both Anna and brother Jesse fall to the wayside. Jesse is left to his own devices, which apparently consists of his walking around some vaguely seedy downtown area and watching streetwalkers while gnawing on a Slurpee straw “" would that all neglected youth were so clean-cut.
Also, Alec Baldwin’s in it.
What, you’re surprised? He plays the TV lawyer that Anna hires to sue her parents. He’s basically playing Alec Baldwin, which is hilarious and delightful, but he’s doing it in a movie about a dying teenager, which is perplexing and weird. Joan Cusack is much better cast as a grieving judge; her usual slightly twitchy nature is beautifully translated into a woman just barely holding on to her sanity.
I was crying by the end of “My Sister’s Keeper.” But every moment of the film is so manipulated and twisted to achieve that end, I’d be shocked if anyone could sit through that film without getting at least a little choked up. But whatever Cassavettes thinks, crocodile tears aren’t based on anything real.
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