Rated PG-13 for mature thematic content, some disturbing images, sensuality, language and brief teen drinking, 109 minutes
Weepy, contrived “My Sister’s Keeper” isn’t a keeper
“My Sister’s Keeper” is a weepy, contrived adaptation of a weepy, contrived best-selling novel by Jodi Picoult. Sensitive and well-acted with a few poignant moments, it’s largely implausible, forgettable but warm and will attract those seeking an chick-flick alternative to all the “Transformers” hype going on this weekend. Though it has a talented all-star cast and a decent director in “The Notebook’s” Nick Cassavetes, this contrived cry-fest disease-of-the-week soaper really belongs on the Lifetime Network than on the big screen.
The story concerns the Fitzgerald family: Sara (Cameron Diaz), Brian (Jason Patric), Jesse (Evan Ellingson), Kate (Sofia Vasselieva) and Anna (Abigail Breslin). Middle daughter Kate contracts leukemia and doctors feel the best way for a cure is to conceive again via in vitro fertilization, and they have Anna. Their lives have all been interwined because of the move to make Anna an involuntary donor-recipient from the time she’s born. By the time Kate reaches 13, she goes into renal failure needing Anna’s kidney, but Anna, tired of donating organs and still seeing her sister suffer, hires a hot-shot attorney (Alec Baldwin) to sue her parents for rights to her own body. The move not only threatens Kate’s life but also threatens to tear apart the family.
Depressing subject matter for sure, “My Sister’s Keeper” is a downer of a movie - a repetitive, tiresome weepfest of a movie - focusing too much on the banal family drama and not enough on the intriguing premise. Director Cassavetes, who’s treaded this type of water before with “The Notebook” and “John Q,” elicits good performances from the cast but unevenly fills the movie with too many maudlin scenes. And those familiar with the novel will note that the controversial ending in Picoult’s novel has been significantly changed. Some may like it, others will bemoan that it only adds to its tremendous implausibility.
Diaz (miscast here) and Patric are likable but bland parents in “Keeper,” overshadowed by more memorable and stronger performances from the supporting cast. Breslin is always a treat to watch and as the cancer-stricken daughter, Vassilieva (who you’ll notice from the TV show “Medium”), is remarkably upbeat and optimistic. The best scene in the movie has few words and comes mid-way through the film, when Breslin shares a scene with a no-nonsense judge (the always excellent Joan Cusack, underused here) and the two share their grief and loss experiences upon deciding the best decision.
“Keeper” is also in need of a better editing job. The choppy, episodic feel of the film doesn’t help advance the story but by the time you get to the overdone, overemotional climax, you’ll be reaching for your tissues in abundance. Those looking for an alternative to “Transformers” may be disappointed in the fact that “My Sister’s Keeper” is just as forgettable (though considerably quieter and shorter) as that machine-filled summer blockbuster. This one isn’t a keeper and better suited for the small screen (i.e. DVD rental).