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Sisters shows us what it would be like if Hollywood wrote comedic characters for women the way it does for men

Film review



I would love it if movies reverted to the days of Bringing Up Baby and The Thin Man, with men and women actually believing that 40-something is cool, dressing for dinner and having cocktails at 6, and solving mysteries and secretly aiding the resistance and such. But if that's not going to happen, and movies are going to be overpopulated by manchildren playing video games and ogling bikinis and wallowing in haphazard celebrations of adolescent testosterone, then it's only fair that women get equal time and aren't expected to be the responsible ones while men have their fun.

So hooray for Sisters. Because now Tina Fey gets to be the womanchild. She throws a for-real kicking-and-screaming tantrum, like a toddler, like an actual brand-new person who has not yet mastered bladder control, which is so absurd that you're convinced it has to be going extra lengths to be a joke. Now Amy Poehler gets to be self-centered and selfish in a uniquely feminine way. (Mini-spoiler: not really.) It's about going overboard in being the "good" girl and the "good" sister and the "good" daughter and how damn self-congratulatory – and also self-negating – that can be. And there's a particular sort of relief in seeing this notion of "appropriate" womanliness being sent up. Like: Yes! Someone sees how ridiculous this is. Someone sees how bad for women this is. Someone sees how this is abdicating adulthood, not embracing it.

Already Sisters has got it all over any Adam Sandler movie, which never sees how problematic 40-something men behaving in stereotypically approved yet idiotically stupid ways really is.

Not that the plot really matters, but Kate (Fey) and Maura Ellis (Poehler) are the titular sibs who've just discovered that their parents (Dianne Wiest and James Brolin) have sold their childhood home in Orlando. They decide that this is the one-last-chance for Maura, ever the Responsible One, to have the blowout party she never had in high school. So when the women are supposed to be clearing out their shared childhood bedroom (Mom and Dad have already moved into their hip new retirement community), they throw a huge party, to which they have invited most of their former high-school friends and a few new neighbors. They definitely do not invite their former high-school enemies, who of course show up anyway.

And thus Sisters ends up a mix of sweet nostalgia – Maura kissing the Family Ties-era poster of Michael J. Fox in their stuck-in-the-'80s bedroom is genuinely lovely – and just a little bit of gross-out that the movie could have done without, but it's not too much, so it's OK. Instead, as wonderful payback for women moviegoers who have been putting up with overgrown boys for far too long, there is some peculiarly womanish humor. When Maura worries about not wearing the right bra to get her flirt on – that is a real thing that women worry about – it is very wise and funny moment. There are men as eye candy and objects of desire: Pro wrestler John Cena, as a drug dealer Kate likes, follows up from his appearance in Trainwreck with another instance of sending up his almost cartoonishly pumped-up masculine image, and – as all wise dudes and women know – men who are comfortable making fun of themselves are extra sexy. And then there is James the charming and funny Florida neighbor, whom Maura likes. He is played by Ike Barinholtz, who's like a lost Wahlberg cousin but is apparently not a relation at all. Maura shares a moment of vulnerability with him during the party scene that is so raw that it made me sob with its shrewdness. I get very worked up when women get to be screwed-up people onscreen. It's so rare!

4 out of 5 stars

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