Low-budget redemption for the romantic comedy
IF the Hollywood romantic comedy has become an almost unbearable entity in the past few years, it is not for want of alternatives.
The rom-com’s salvation is clearly in the camp of the low-budget indie realm. The genre needs fewer Katherine Heigls and Cameron Diazes and more Rosemarie DeWitts and Aubrey Plazas, fewer Gerard Butlers and Justin Timberlakes and more Mark Duplasses.
And if rumply, scruffy Mark Duplass is not your idea of a romantic fantasy figure, ladies, please recall that one of the most romantic movies of all, Casablanca, starred an improbable love god named Humphrey Bogart.
In Your Sister’s Sister, director Lynne Shelton’s followup to the unlikely bromance Humpday, Duplass is Jack, a guy still visibly grieving one year after the death of his brother. His late siblings’s girlfriend Iris (Emily Blunt) sends him to a beautiful, bucolic cabin in the Pacific Northwest where he can have some alone time to think through his life.
But when he arrives there, he discovers Iris’s sister, Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt), already settled in, licking her wounds after a breakup with her longtime girlfriend.
After an initially awkward introduction, tequila is consumed and an unexpected sexual encounter occurs. The next morning, the awkward factor is ramped up considerably when Iris shows up. Delighted to see her sister, Iris Mark Duplass, Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt Cinematheque 14A 91 minutes
½ out of five confesses to her that she may be in love with Jack. And Jack, given his panicky pleas to Hannah to keep their dalliance a secret, would seem to reciprocate.
In more hackneyed hands, this unwieldy love triangle might have resulted in an egregious farce. Shelton’s approach is to ground the characters in substantial (but not far-fetched) back stories and let the comedy emerge from character, not sitcom contrivance.
The movie also gives due to the sisterly bond as much as the more conventional romantic one. Blunt and DeWitt are both substantial dramatic actresses and their mutual intelligence sets both apart from the rom-com’s typical nervous-ninny heroine.
As for Duplass, he isn’t likely to beat out your Timberlakes or Ashton Kutchers for roles when it comes to romantic leads, but unlike those guys, his off-the-cuff naturalism makes him an appealing and (for guys) recognizable romantic hero.
He may not look like the white knight who will save the heroine. But given his comic chops and shaggy charm, he could help save the genre.
Jack and Iris and Hannah, sittin’ in a...: From left, Duplass, Blunt and DeWitt in My Sister’s Sister.