Monday, December 5, 2011

Sister, My Snoozer

I thought I'd do a quickie this morning, so here are some thoughts on Sister, My Sister, which I saw a couple days ago. But first, as per popular request (read: one anonymous comment on the internet) here's another stupid picture of me.

God Bless Facebook.

One can easily tell that this 1994 film, lauded in the promotional material as an "all-female production", was initially a play as it never fully escapes its theatrical roots. It opens with a preview of what is to come: the camera pans ominously over the bloody aftermath of this oppressive war of the classes. Then we see how it all began, Christine invites her younger sister Lea to come work for the Danzards--her stuffy, bourgeoisie employers.

Madame Danzard is penurious and niggardly, and insists on perfection within a nearly impossible standard (once she pitches a fit over a flawless hemline, insisting that it is off by a fraction of a fraction of an inch and is therefore worthless). Always looking to save every penny, she leaps at the chance to employ two sisters for the price of one maid.  Isabelle is her homely and resentful daughter who, while waiting to be married off (though no suitors ever come calling), takes joy in those who are worse off than she is with her unfortunate looks. This expresses itself in a blatant and painfully developed disdain for the two sisters.

This teleplay (I refuse to call it a movie) is stifling, both for the characters and the viewers. All the time is basically spent in one of two rooms. Either the upstairs bedroom where the sisters contrive to insulate themselves in forbidden intimacy... the only outlet for their long repressed desires. Or in the study where the Danzard duo spends all their time--they're either knitting or nattering, gossiping or poorly playing the piano.

The only bright spot in this movie comes from the performances of the cast. Julie Walters as Madame Danzard is an imposing presence, even when she's not on screen you fear (and hope, as she's the best part of this mess) that she'll come a calling, looking to find fault with a dish or an outfit, seeking to put these upstart country girls in their place. Joely Richardson and Jodhi May acquit themselves admirably as the two sisters. Richardson as the older sister Chrstine is protective and reclusive. Initially she seeks to remain aloof for her sister, and she's jealous of Lea for having such a close relationship with their unseen mother (or maybe she's jealous of the mother for being so close with Lea?)--to whom Lea sends her half of the money every Sunday like a dutiful daughter. Lea, not having inoculated herself to the difficulties of working for the upper class is initially more defiant. Once she wears a beautiful and expensive pink blouse in front of Madame Danzard... an unacceptable transgression of her station.

Incestuous, killer lesbians have never been more boring. 

However, as the plot progresses, due to reasons that are not incredibly clear, the sisters grow to serve as more than just siblings to each other. Christine becomes at first like a mother to the less assured Lea, and afterwards they begin seek comfort in each other's embrace. The motives for this are obfuscated, but perhaps under the constant watchful, critical eye of their employer, it is in silent, tentative passion that these two sister/lovers find release and happiness. Unfortunately, this is not enough... as then tensions between the two families, and two classes becomes so overwhelming that a violent outcome seems pre-ordained. The specific trigger (a shirt burned by an iron, lights left on too late, poorly cooked food) is not so important as the message behind it: class warfare is inevitable without  mutual communication and understanding.

This movie (play) has at its center an interesting concept, compelling themes, and great performances... so why then is it so damn dull? Unfortunately, it's never able to overcome its theatrical roots and never feels like more than just a poorly filmed play. Had they expanded the story, integrated more characters and been more cinematic and dynamic; or if they had kept the running time to under 80 minutes, this might have been worth watching. As is, your time is better spent reading the actual play, or maybe watching paint dry.

Gleenneen16's rating: *1/2/*****


  1. SisterMySister4EverDecember 5, 2011 at 11:37 AM

    I am shaking right now. How dare you insult this masterpiece and work of art. Clearly, this film was too complex for your simple mind, PHILISTINE!

  2. I call bullshit! Any movie with lesbian sisters would be rated at least 4/5 by any decent critic. You are an embarrassment to your family and a skidmark on the underside of the film industry. GOOD DAY SIR!!