I have to be honest with you, I wasn’t expecting to be reviewing this film this week. It was a last minute watch so I could find something to talk about. I was supposed to go and see David Brent: Life on the Road with some guys at work but they proved to be too unreliable. I’m not sure if I’m happy or sad about this. From what I’ve heard it’s good but, obviously, nothing compared to The Office. I’m sure it’ll be funnier than Gervais’ last outing Special Correspondents but how easy will it be to slip back into David Brent. To be honest, once The Office finished I was done with Brent. I didn’t watch the shitty Learn Guitar series that he released on YouTube a few years ago because it just felt to desperate. Maybe that was just me? I love Gervais but he really believes that everything he does is the best example of comedy. If there’s one thing he last experiences in Hollywood have taught us, it’s that Gervais isn’t suited to every format. Just like the pair of funny women heading up the film at the heart of this review. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have not always been as funny on the big screen as they have been known to be on television. Now I’m not saying they’ve had fuck loads of major disasters but the films they star in tend to be forgettable ones. I had no real expectations for Sisters except that I was going to freak out whenever Kate McKinnon was on screen.
Without wanting to offend all of those idiots that went mental at the idea of female Ghostbusters, Sisters is almost like the female version of the Will Ferrell/John C. Reilly comedy Step Brothers. That is to say that it revolves around two middle-aged siblings who, on returning to their family home, descend back into some sort of second childhood. Not able to deal with their vast emotional baggage and being scared to let go of the house they grew up in, the two sisters decide to throw a final epic blowout for all their old friends. And, because this is an incredibly unoriginal idea, the shit hits the fan with supposedly outrageous and hilarious results.
Much of the comedy comes from the fact that the two sisters are polar opposites. Maura (Poehler) is the sensible one: she’s a nurse who just wants to help people but is unable to help herself following her recent divorce. Kate (Fey) is the eternal party-girl who is an unreliable employee, friend and mother to her teenage daughter, Hayley (Madison Davenport). They constantly bicker but the two sisters deeply care about each other. Whilst cleaning out their childhood bedroom, Kate decides Maura needs to experience the kind of wild night that she was always too good to be a part of when she a teenager. In exchance, Maura has Kate promise to take the role of “party mom” and prove that she can be sensible and care for other people.
Sisters is basically just a run-of-the-mill comedy about two sisters in the midst of difficult times who come together to help each other out. There isn’t much to rave about beyond the chemistry of the two leads. Poehler and Fey have an undeinable connection that make them perfect in the role of sisters. They may be playing opposite to their typical characters but the pair make what little they are given work for them. Fey keeps the jabs coming as the frank and brutal Kate whilst Poehler adds more than a touch of awkward charm to the proceedings. It’s a testimony to the two stars that you end up caring for the pair and hoping they get their inevitable and schmaltzy ending.
Still, this film is just another example of great comedic talents being relegated to lazily written comedies. Just like actors like Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman, the two women who have earned countless accolades for their work on television are never given the kind of material they rightly deserve. Sisters has some funny moments but most of the jokes fall flat. Much of Jason Moore’s direction is just continuous reaction shots from the vast sea of supporting characters and the script, written by Paula Pell, is incredibly repetitive and chock full of all your favourite stereotypes. With anyone else in the main roles this film would hardly have been on the film radar at all. It’s just nothing that exciting.
It sort of feels like a tired SNL sketch based on the hilarious premise of people over 40 getting wasted (lol) and elongated thanks to an endless stream of characters that wouldn’t even make it into the worst SNL sketch. The background characters are overplayed and single-note. Any humour they may provoke is based almost entirely on stereotypes or repetition. I mean as soon as they large group of lesbians walk in you can guarantee there’ll be some sort of girl fight and at least one of the of the women will make some sort of reference to it being her ultimate fantasy. The BBC are currently reviving their classic sitcoms from the 70s and 80s but Sisters clearly jumped on the nostalgia bandwagon first with humour that comes straight from the dark ages.
I so wanted to like Sisters and, really, I liked it more than I should have. It’s not a particularly funny film that doesn’t find the idea of mothers and fathers enjoying a drink utterly hilarious. The main narrative is so unsubstantial that the film has been padded out with countless unfunny subplots, running gags and supporting characters. It’s like taking an old worn out teddy and stuffing it with a load shit. It might make it look plumper but it doesn’t make it better. It’s about time these two funny women join forces in a genuinely funny film that proves women can dominate in Hollywood. So far, we’re not getting much evidence to support that claim.