A half decade ago the actors and filmmakers behind the “mumblecore” movement - a label they hate - stormed festivals and arthouses with a series of no-budget mostly improvised little experiments. Today many of the actors have been plucked for supporting parts in big budget fare (Greta Gerwig, Mark Duplass) while the filmmakers are caught inching their way towards the mainstream. The Duplass Brothers have found success casting Jonah Hill, John C. Reilly, Ed Helms and Jason Segel in their recent efforts while still retaining the improvisation and looseness of their earlier work. Writer/director Lynn Shelton (“Humpday”) is the latest filmmaker to take baby steps towards a larger audience with “Your Sister’s Sister,” her improvised drama.
The film stars MVP Duplass as Jack, a 30-something grieving for the loss of his brother who passed away a year ago, who’s offered a place to stay by his best friend Iris (Emily Blunt). The accommodations are her family’s remote cabin which is supposed to be empty so that Jack can decompress and gather his thoughts but ends up being occupied by Iris’ sister Hannah (the lovely Rosemary DeWitt, filling in for Rachel Weisz). Hannah is a lesbian who’s also mourning (in her case, the breakup of a recent relationship) and the two end up making some very bad decisions together. The situation is complicated (naturally) by Iris who show’s up (also) unexpectedly the following morning and just happens to be in love with Jack. Whoops.
The actors (who are all good) do their best to dramatize what is essentially “Three’s Company” material but are left out to dry by a script (or lack thereof) that doesn’t give them anywhere interesting to go. After a sitcom level turn in the third act, things go from bad to worse. The film (through a grave mistake I won’t spoil here) makes DeWitt’s character into kind of a monster, which was kind of infuriating for an actress I love so much. For all the supposed emphasis by this group of filmmakers on real people and capturing real moments, the whole thing rings disappointingly false. My bullshit detector didn’t go off nearly as much during “The Avengers” as it did during this film which amid the action, still managed to contain more convincing human moments from characters who were barely human.