Sunday, November 6, 2016


Welcome to another installment of the TRASH BIN, where we watch the worst movies Hollywood has to offer, according to the critics, and give you our thoughts, good or bad. This week's pick is the cotton candy rom-com, THE OTHER SISTER.

Howdy fellow film freaks, Robert here. Watch enough movies of any given genre, and you'll eventually learn to spot the formula that genre follows. Romantic comedies are among the worst offenders; see one, and you almost literally have seen them all. A woman, typically played by some stunningly beautiful specimen, is going about her everyday life when she meets The Guy, he also being played by an example of the finest stock. She's instantly smitten, but lacks the confidence to take a chance (ha). Embarassing moments and wacky misadventures play out for a while, until she (or he, if the screenwriter was a real "think outside the box" type) finally lets the penny drop and confesses her feelings. There might be a final moment of trouble in paradise after this, but you can pretty much roll the credits at that point.

The Other Sister tries to stand out from that crowd by bucking the perfect couple trend. Instead of cover models, our central couple-to-be are played by less attractive (by Hollywood standards) actors. Not content with this, the film goes the extra mile and makes our two eventual lovers mentally handicapped. As they say in the musical Gypsy, "you gotta have a gimmick," and politically correct or not, this does make The Other Sister a distinct alternative.

Carla Tate (Juliette Lewis -- Natural Born Killers; What's Eating Gilbert Grape?) has returned to her family's upper-class home after graduating from a special school for people with special needs. Instead of being timid, though, Carla is ready to take on the world. She wants to go to college at the local polytechnic and become a veterinarian's assistant. Her main antagonist in these pursuits is her domineering and smothering mother (Diane Keaton), who has a very specific idea of how girls from wealthy families should be, and even worse, "just wants her daughter to be safe." Carla wants none of this. Fortunately, Carla's father and two sisters are enthusiastic supporters of her ambitions, so mother is kept in check before she can do too much damage.

"The Guy" meanwhile, is Daniel, played by Giovanni Ribisi. Daniel kinda sucks at life: he has a job, but it doesn't pay much. He's dependent on his father to pay for his apartment. He's also no great shakes in school, as we'll find out later. Why Carla falls for him is never really explained, but then the main couple's attraction never is explained in these types of movies.

For the first hour or so, The Other Sister is a sweet, charming and funny, if not terribly substantial experience. One of my favorite moments of this part of the film was a Halloween costume dance that Carla and Danny attend, and Carla's absolutely adorable costume. In looking through other reviews of this movie to understand why it was received so poorly, I found that critics took issue with what they saw as attempts to "normalize" Danny and Carla, or downplay their disability. I might be old fashioned, but I actually prefer when a character isn't entirely defined by their disabilities. If we're constantly being reminded over the course of a movie that the main character suffers from tumorsyphilisitisosis or something like, the character's burden becomes the center of the story, not the character itself. Letting Carla and Danny's disabilities be secondary to the film's story allows us to look past them, and Carla and Danny themselves to become more to us than just their medical records.

The film drops considerably around the one hour mark, when the story begins hustling Carla and Danny through a series of romantic comedy tropes to get them to the credits on time. Trouble in Paradise? Check. Breakup? Check. Longing? Check. Reunion? Wedding Proposal and Ceremony? Parental Showdown and Reconciliation? Check-checkity-check. And all this plays out in record time, at just over thirty-four minutes. It's like the movie got stuck on fast-forward.

The Other Sister is, like all romantic comedies, cinematic marshmallow fluff to be watched from within the comforting warmth of your Snuggie, a pint of ice cream nearby. Unlike other rom-com's though, it isn't mere fantasy relationship porn. The Other Sister wants very much to be more charming and sincere than the other films of its type. It doesn't always succeed, but it comes so close that I'm inclined to forgive at least most of its failings.

The Other Sister is rated PG-13 for thematic elements involving sex related material.


Rotten Tomatoes: 29%
Metacritic Score: 28
Roger Ebert: 1/4

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