KRWG

Of Best Friends, Siblings And Too Much Tequila

Jun 14, 2012
Originally published on June 15, 2012 4:25 pm

As played by Mark Duplass, Jack is a sweet guy, though that's not really something you'd guess from his lashing out at the friends who are trying to celebrate his brother's life at the memorial service that starts Your Sister's Sister.

It's been a year since his brother's death, but Jack is still in such a deep funk that his best friend, Iris (Emily Blunt), who is also his brother's ex-girlfriend, decides it's time for an intervention. Kindly, and with the sort of patience that he's not showing himself, she sends him off to her family's secluded island cabin to sit and think.

"There's no TV, there's no internet, it's just you," she tells him.

"Do they have forks?" he wonders. "Because I may need to stab myself in the face."

Still, off he goes, arriving well after dark at the cabin only to discover that it's occupied. Iris' sister Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt) is there, feeling blue after breaking up with her girlfriend of seven years. Awkward chit-chat ensues, then an agreement to share the house for the evening, and then she breaks out the tequila.

Quite a few shots later, Jack has gone much further than he meant to in reassuring Hannah that she's still attractive and desirable. They end up having drunken sex — hilariously, for all of about 10 seconds — and that potentially awkward situation becomes infinitely more fraught when they awaken bleary-eyed the next morning to the sound of Iris arriving unexpectedly.

Jack's reaction — after he's begged Hannah not to let Iris know they've slept together — is something on the order of "Wha', how, whi', why're you, wha', how'd the, what're you doin' here?"

As you may gather from that collection of syllables, the conversation in Your Sister's Sister has a loose, improvisatory feel, partly because much of the dialogue was improvised. Writer-director Lynn Shelton likes to work that way — as she did in her previous comedy, Hump Day, which also starred Duplass in a situation where sex got complicated.

This film, shot in just 12 days, goes so far as to credit her three stars as creative consultants, and their heightened involvement in what they're saying pays clear dividends. You can feel the immediacy deepening as secrets are revealed, relationships recalibrated, and Jack goes into panic mode in a Puget Sound woodland that serves as a lush background for sparring between both siblings and friends.

Duplass is doing his conflicted mumblecore thing quite elegantly these days, and he's joined here by Blunt's fragile Iris and DeWitt's alternately guarded and abrasive Hannah. Also by perhaps one too many unlikely betrayals in the final reel — but by that time, audiences will likely have been so seduced by the film's spontaneous wit and understated charm that only the really churlish will object.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. This time of year, it may seem like the movie industry is only interested in a box-office smash. Even in the summer though, a few low-budget films sneak into the cineplex. Our movie critic, Bob Mondello, says one that deserves an audience is a three-character indie comedy called "Your Sister's Sister."

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Jack is a sweet guy, though that's not something you'd guess from the way he acts at the memorial service that starts this film. It's been a year since his brother's death, but Jack is still in such a deep funk that his best friend, Iris, who was also his brother's girlfriend, decides it's time for an intervention.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "YOUR SISTER'S SISTER")

EMILY BLUNT: (as Iris) I've been watching you for a year now, and whatever you're doing and whatever you think is helping you, I have a responsibility as your friend to tell you that it's not.

MARK DUPLASS: (as Jack) I knew this was coming, by the way.

BLUNT: (as Iris) OK.

DUPLASS: (as Jack) Just tell me what to do.

BLUNT: (as Iris) You know that nice red bicycle that you have?

DUPLASS: (as Jack) Yes.

BLUNT: (as Iris) Yikes.

DUPLASS: (as Jack) Sorry.

(LAUGHTER)

BLUNT: (as Iris) What you're going to do, you're going to dust off Old Red. I'm sending you to my dad's place. You know, my dad's place on the island is beautiful in the winter. It's idyllic and crisp and peaceful and...

DUPLASS: (as Jack) Like, by beautiful you mean rainy and cold.

BLUNT: (as Iris) I'm sorry. I got so distracted because all I heard was moaning.

DUPLASS: (as Jack) Right. I'm done. I'm done.

MONDELLO: So off Jack goes, finally arriving at the secluded cabin, only to discover that it's occupied. Hannah, Iris' sister, is there, feeling blue after breaking up with her girlfriend.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "YOUR SISTER'S SISTER")

ROSEMARIE DEWITT: (as Hannah) I just walked out on a seven-year relationship.

DUPLASS: (as Jack) Whoa.

DEWITT: (as Hannah) Hence, the tequila.

DUPLASS: (as Jack) Hence, the tequila.

MONDELLO: So quiet time for each of them becomes commiserating time.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "YOUR SISTER'S SISTER")

DEWITT: (as Hannah) To your brother.

DUPLASS: (as Jack) To your sister and her sister being you.

DEWITT: (as Hannah) Being me. Yeah.

MONDELLO: Quite a few shots of tequila later, Jack has gone much further than he meant to in reassuring Hannah that she's still attractive and desirable. To the surprise of both of them, they end up having drunken sex for all of about 10 seconds, and that potentially awkward situation becomes infinitely more so when they awaken hung over the next morning to the sound of Iris arriving.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "YOUR SISTER'S SISTER")

BLUNT: (as Iris) Hello.

DUPLASS: (as Jack) What are you doing here? What is going on? Why...

BLUNT: (as Iris) I don't know. I'm just visiting my sister. I've been wanting you to meet her.

DUPLASS: (as Jack) I did. We met last night. Yes, we did.

BLUNT: (as Iris) How nice is this? I've been wanting you guys to meet for so long, and it's weird, it's weird that you haven't met. So I love it.

DUPLASS: (as Jack) I know. It's crazy. Well - how - why are you - well, how did - what are you doing here?

MONDELLO: As you may be gathering, the conversation in "Your Sister's Sister" has a loose, improvised feel, partly because much of the dialogue was improvised. Writer-director Lynn Shelton likes to work that way, as she did in her previous comedy, "Hump Day," which also starred Mark Duplass in a situation where sex got complicated. Here, his conflicted Jack is joined in some really pretty Northwestern woods by Emily Blunt's fragile Iris, Rosemarie DeWitt's guarded Hannah and perhaps one too many plot twists in the final reel.

But by that time, audiences will have been so seduced by the easy, spontaneous charm of "Your Sister's Sister" that only the really churlish will object. I'm Bob Mondello. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.