My Sister’s Keeper Directed by: Nick Cassavetes Cast: Cameron Diaz, Abigail Breslin, Sofia Vassilieva, Jason Patric Running Time: 1 hr 45 Rating: PG 13
Plot: Anna Fitzgerald (Abigail Breslin) seeks medical emancipation so that she doesn’t have to donate organs to her sister, Kate (Sofia Vassilieva), who is dying from leukemia. And here’s the scoop: that’s the red-herring plot. The underlying story is fully dedicated to the lives of extremely likable people and how they handle the loss of their beloved.
Who’s It For? I would say anyone who likes dramas who isn’t suicidal, but it would come off as glib, and I don’t mean it like that. If you are easily affected by onscreen sadness, expect this movie to stay lodged in your throat for sometime.
Expectations: I had no interest in seeing this movie and I was prepared for an onslaught of formulaic manipulation, which has no impact on me (save overwhelming irritation).
Actors: Cameron Diaz as Sara Fitzgerald: Luckily, Sara Fitzgerald is a strong enough character to overshadow Diaz the persona. Diaz the persona never obstructs the path of Diaz the actor, and she rocked this role. She brings a mother’s ferocity to the character that is so well done and so believable, it’s hard to imagine she doesn’t actually have any kids of her own. Score: 9
Sofia Vassilieva as Kate Fitzgerald: Vassilieva has a challenging role, because she has to go through all the childhood and teenaged milestones while bearing the burden of a terminal illness. And yet she is so gentle and wise. She is frail and ill, but she is the heart and strength of the family. Stupendous job. Score: 9
Abigail Breslin as Anna Fitzgerald: Breslin is perfect for this role, because she’s the everyday kid; and you need “the everyday kid” actor, or it destroys the movie with sappy manipulation. Breslin is a veritable trove of childish innocence and she is wonderful to watch. Score: 9
Jason Patric as Brian Fitzgerald: If My Sister’s Keeper followed the formula, Patric’s character would either be emotionally paralyzed or an insensitive d**khead, but Brian is a great father. Patric is perfectly chosen and executes the role with the same simple realism as the rest of the cast. Score: 9
Talking: The dialogue in this film is just wonderful. Everyone sounds real, and they are funny and dear and wounded and surviving the best they can under the circumstances. Score: 9
Sights: The movie doesn’t spare you the more brutal aspects of leukemia. You are in the room with Kate when she is throwing up blood and losing her hair and soiling the bed after she is no longer in control of her own body. At the same time, the movie and all the characters therein love her so deeply there is nothing disrespectful or exploitative in these shots. Score: 9
Sounds: The score is unusual, because the song choices can be a little askew. At the same time, the movie NEVER uses its score against its audience, which is probably my biggest movie pet peeve in existence today. If you can’t make it sad without weepy music, you’re not a good filmmaker. My Sister’s Keeper is incredibly moving and very sad and it does so with modest indie rock and mild jazz. Score: 8
Best Scene: Kate reminiscing through the scrapbook of her life was a magnificent scene and when she actually shares that book with her mother (Diaz), I was so overwhelmed, I almost crawled under my seat to cry in private.
Ending: Painfully realistic and immensely respectful of the true nature of loss.
Rewatchability: I could not sit through this movie a second time.
OVERALL True story: a few minutes before My Sister’s Keeper began, I confessed to the critic sitting next to me that dramas were not my cup of tea. Not because I’m a crier—far from it—I’ve been accused of having no soul as everyone around me is weeping, while I sit there bored and irritated and rolling my eyes. “I prefer movies where stuff blows up and there’s a dinosaur eating people,” I told him, which neatly sums up my unsophisticated preference for brainless action flicks. Fast forward 40-minutes, and I’m staring with all my might at the ceiling, trying to keep the tears from rolling down my face, breathing very consciously, and needing a hug.
I thought this movie was phenomenal. It was stark without screaming in your face, and every single character is so unique and so wonderful, it was only a few degrees separation of actually suffering the loss yourself. Case in point: the side characters are just as complex and enjoyable as the main characters. Watch Joan Cusack as Judge De Salvo, who has been on hiatus for the last 6 months after a drunk driver killed her young daughter. The way she manages to just barely stave off an emotional breakdown by the minor twitches in her face was heartbreaking and she’s in the movie for maybe eight minutes.
So imagine a movie where every single character touches your heart—even the minor characters who come and go and would normally be like white noise in other films. I cried throughout the last half of the film, I cried walking on my way to my car, I cried on my way home, and then I threw myself into my boyfriend’s arms and sobbed, “Don’t ever die!!!” And I laughed at the end of Finding Neverland when Kate Winslet was inadvertently coughing up consumptive blood all over her kids. If you are more sensitive than I am—and it’s impossible not to be, unless you are an outright sociopath—bear in mind that this movie will devastate you…but it is a beautiful devastation.
Final Score: 9/10