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The Romance We Deserve

by John Rodat on July 19, 2012

Your Sister's Sister
Directed by Lynn Shelton

Three hearts in the happy ending machine: Your Sister's Sister

Lynn Shelton’s film Your Sister’s Sister can be viewed as, among other things, testimony to just how bloated and hackish most Hollywood romantic comedies are. According to IMDB, the movie was produced on an estimated budget of $125,000; compare that to the $16 million spent on When Harry Met Sally—in 1989! Your Sister’s Sister was also, reportedly, shot over 12 days and largely improvised.

So, if a smart rom-com can be knocked out in a couple of weeks, basically made up on the spot for the kind of money lying around in a major studio’s couch cushions, why, why, why are we subjected to the kind of dreck that more regularly hits the screens? Because Ashton Kutcher, that’s why. Life is cruel. Get over it.

Anyway, Your Sister’s Sister is the story (or an excerpt of the story) of the almost accidental love triangle between friends Jack and Iris and Iris’s sister, Hannah. Jack (Mark Duplass) is a muddled slacker still grieving the death of his brother a year later; Iris (Emily Blunt), who dated and dumped the brother, is working up the nerve to confess her love for Jack; and Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt) is fresh out of a seven-year relationship with a suffocating and joyless girlfriend. When Jack and Hannah meet for the first time, they are each unaware of Iris’ feelings for Jack, and drunkenly, clumsily sleep together.

The obvious complication is the emotional one: Hannah and Iris have a very close relationship, and this fling threatens that closeness. Moreover, Hannah very much wants a child, and Jack suspects that she is not above prophylactic sabotage to obtain her desire. It’s a silly plot. But the point is, there is a plot. Throw money and actors with more charisma than talent at this picture and you’d have a recognizable beast. Your Sister’s Sister is interesting in that it applies mumblecore techniques—micro budget, short shooting schedule, improv—to a story outline that could easily have been cranked out by Ganz and Mandel.

In great part, I think it works. The actors are appealing and natural. The dialogue is believable and character-consistent. The interactions between the trio—the very engine of the movie—are far better than typically found in overscripted major-studio releases. In fact, it is during the one stretch when the trio are separated that the movie bogs down and starts to drag, starts to feel a little self-consciously indie. But that’s a minor complaint, more than made up for—in my mind—by the self-consciously indie ambiguity of the ending, which tickled me.