Emily Blunt Rosemary DeWitt and Mark Duplass carry this intimate indie with aplomb. Your Sister's Sister starts with a strange premise that could be the basis of a manic romcom but is kept grounded by an excellent cast and script.
Jack (Duplass) has spent a year mourning his dead brother. He's a total mess but his best friend Iris (Blunt) also the ex-girlfriend of Jack's dead brother steps in with some tough love and directs him to take a sabbatical at her family's home on an island off the coast of Seattle. Unfortunately her older sister Hannah (DeWitt) is also there in search of solace after breaking up with her long-term girlfriend. Hannah and Jack mourn their lost loves over a large bottle of tequila and wake up with monster hangovers…and a surprise visit from Iris.
Your Sister's Sister a messy funny and sometimes sad love story about family. Who do you choose to be in your family? What exactly can you forgive when people you love go too far? Writer/director Lynn Shelton starts with an odd farcical proposition similar to her debut Humpday wherein two buddies decide they have to prove their friendship their open-mindedness and their heterosexuality by making a porn movie together. Shelton takes similar risks with ideas about the fluidity of sexuality and love but pushes it forward in Your Sister's Sister. Its emotional risks are more real. The bond between Iris and Hannah is tangible and complicated. Iris worships her older sister she climbs into bed with her and whispers secrets to her in the dark but she is also a grown woman who is abruptly forced to face Hannah's all-too-human flaws. Jack is he weakest character but Duplass plays him as the likeable but screwed-up shaggy dog type he's known for in the indie world. DeWitt and Blunt are perfectly matched although one would be hard-pressed to otherwise cast them as siblings albeit half-sisters. They play off each other perfectly and the best example of this is a joke Hannah lobs at Iris during dinner that DeWitt ad-libbed.
Like its characters and writing the cinematography feels wider in scope and more breathable in Your Sister's Sister. Cinematographer Benjamin Kasulke captures both the intimacy of three people trying to keep secrets from each other in a small house as well as sweeping views of the woods and water surrounding them. The direction is more sure-footed and less dependent on the intense close-ups that dominated Humpday. The end result is a fleshy delicious love story. It's savory and joyous and leaves the viewer with some hope for love — all types of love.
As the fifth year at Hogwarts begins most of the wizardry world is having a hard time believing Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has returned further propagated by the Ministry of Magic who refuses to recognize anything evil is brewing and blames all the hullabaloo on Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and Dumbledore (Michael Gambon). The Ministry even interferes with Hogwarts business by making Ministry employee Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor whose outwardly sweet demeanor hides a sadistic streak a mile wide. She thinks the children should only learn about the Dark Arts “theoretically” and tortures all those who disagree. But the Voldemort threat is a reality and Dumbledore has re-formed the Order of the Phoenix a group of witches and wizards that prepares to battle the Dark Lord. Harry is unfortunately being kept in the dark for his protection of course even as his connection to Voldemort grows stronger and he’s royally peeved at being ignored. Urged on by Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) he forms his own order of Hogwarts students called Dumbledore’s Army to teach them what defenses against the Dark Arts he has already learned. Oh yeah Harry also shares his first kiss but make no bones about it—love is the furthest thing on Harry’s mind when the crap hits the fan. War is imminent. Everyone steps up their game in Order of the Phoenix. Radcliffe Watson and Grint have shed their adolescent whininess and aw-shucks goofiness to give their characters the greatest depth so far. They are forced to grow up pretty quickly in Order with little time for any playfulness and the three actors handle the seriousness with aplomb. Of course both Radcliffe and Grint have already ventured out of the Potter world—Radcliffe shed more than just adolescence on stage in a production of Equus while Grint lost his virginity in the indie Driving Lessons--and their extra experience shows in Order. Also good are Matthew Lewis as the usually clumsy Neville Longbottom who shows his mettle in more ways than one and newcomer Evanna Lynch as the slightly off-kilter Luna Lovegood who proves to be a loyal member of Dumbledore’s Army. But the kids have to keep up with the talented adult cast especially Oscar-nominated Staunton (Vera Drake) as Umbridge. The veteran actress’ interpretation of one of J.K. Rowling’s nastiest characters so far in the Potter lore is spot-on down to the pink wool suits and irritating twitter “ahem” she uses when she wants your undivided attention. Helena Bonham Carter also makes an impression however over the top it is as the evil Voldemort follower Bellatrix Lestrange. Does she ever want to look pretty onscreen? Then there’s the laundry list of Brits whose time onscreen may be short but is nonetheless memorable including Alan Rickman as the sneering Prof. Snape; Gambon as the wise but flawed Dumbledore; Gary Oldman as the kindly Sirius Black Harry’s only real family; and of course Fiennes as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. His late-in-the-game appearance once again throws you for a loop. It stands to reason that at five movies in moviegoers would have a favorite Harry Potter flick by now. Those who love those Triwizard Tournament special effects might feel The Goblet of Fire was the best; or Prisoner of Azkaban for its time-bending action. Yet The Order of the Phoenix may be the one movie that speaks directly to the fans of the books. Without as much wide-eyed wonderment or wizardry flash the story is still chockfull of compelling details that are absolutely pivotal to the continuing Harry Potter saga. Screenwriter Michael Goldenberg (Peter Pan) and director David Yates (HBO’s The Girl in the Café) manage to wade through this volume of information and cut successfully to the chase with great effect. Yates who has signed on to do the sixth movie Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince even shows an affinity for action in the final dramatic confrontation between good witches and wizards and bad ones. But overall Order of the Phoenix may leave audiences not as well-versed in the novels a little itchy for some good old-fashioned wand-waving and Disney special effects. Thing is it’s just going to keep getting darker and darker for Harry and his crew. The days of happy fun playtime are over.