Editor’s Note: Sisters opened in wide theatrical release December 18, 2015.
Hilarity is hard to come by, seeing as it’s more subjective than any other aspect of film. Comedic taste, more frequently than the artistic integrity of the comedy being watched, influences how often one will find it, and so many comedies will find a niche group to satisfy. To name a few broader groups, there’s the teen crowd, the dry/deadpan crowd, the offensive crowd, and the crowd that adores bombastic, energetic, always-moving humor. Sisters, mostly but not wholly, aims for that final group, yet still ascertains a purpose, which most similar comedies fail to do.
From the moment Kate suggests the concept of a party, until the credits stop rolling, it never stops delivering energetic comedy that very smartly chooses when to slow down.
Jason Moore returns to the director’s chair after 2012’s Pitch Perfect with Sisters, this time without musical numbers, but with lots of SNL cast and crew in tow. It’s about Maura and Kate Ellis (played respectively by Amy Poehler and Tina Fey) who were, in their youth, known as the Ellis Sisters. Back then they would throw wild parties, but cut to 2015, and they’re found living vastly different, much quainter lives, though they’re still helplessly tied to the memories of their youth. These lives of theirs are shaken, however, when their parents make a startling reveal. They’re selling the sisters’ childhood home. To Maura and Kate, this is a tragedy, and it sends them into a crisis that only accentuates the perpetual mid-life crisis they’ve been in for years. So, in a desperate grasp to hold onto their pasts, they make the sudden decision to throw a party and invite all of their high school pals. In the ensuing chaos, substances are abused, property is damaged, and the Ellis sisters do the opposite of what they planned to do. They evolve.
The first half hour of Sisters is, by design, uneven. It gives us some laughs through dialogue, yet presents us with emotional beats that also attempt to inspire laughter, despite later being used as the foundations for deeper emotional arcs. Though, as these arcs (those of Maura and Kate) do follow the Ellis sisters on their journey out of immaturity, their tendencies to excessively crack jokes, even during emotional beats, is necessary. It’s simply a matter of the structure of Maura and Kate’s arcs being a nearly unchangeable one. But after this opening, once these arcs have progressed to a more easily balanced place, Sisters soon becomes a very well-realized comedic and dramatic affair. From the moment Kate suggests the concept of a party, until the credits stop rolling, it never stops delivering energetic comedy that very smartly chooses when to slow down.
Sisters isn’t always poignant when it tries to be, but is successful where it counts. It’s a comedy with flair. . .
Amy Poehler and Tina Fey bring their humorous sensibilities to a script that gives them more than enough to work with. They have as much fun with sight gags as they do with genuinely clever subversion. For every scene featuring Amy Poehler falling down, there’s another scene that plays with ideas like mid-40’s parents, who behave as if they’re teenagers, fearing the judgement of their teenage children. And as for the plentiful drug jokes (which are frequent in party movies), where a far less clever script would simply introduce drugs to faceless party attendees, the script for Sisters sets up a single character (Bobby Moynihan in a scene-stealing role) as loud and obnoxious in the first place, then puts him on a substance that exaggerates his volume. Creative effort like this is rampant all throughout the film, and extends to the evolutions of Maura and Kate, as they step into each other’s shoes for the duration of the party and come to understand each other’s struggles.
Sisters isn’t always poignant when it tries to be, but is successful where it counts. It’s a comedy with flair, and is definitely worth your time.
After an uneven opening, Sisters becomes a solid comedic and dramatic affair, offering genuinely subversive takes amongst the silly sight gags and usual party humor.