Of course three minutes isn’t enough time to give audience members an unbridled view of what an upcoming movie is about. To capture the essence of a two hour movie in a condensed trailer must be a nearly impossible task, akin to describing yourself in one word or choosing a favorite band. As a result, many production companies are guilty of marketing movies in completely inaccurate ways. The trailer for the 2011 movie Drive gave viewers the impression that the feature is simply a violent action packed film in which leading man Ryan Gosling drives around town dangerously and fights drug dealers. One Michigan woman found this trailer so misrepresentative of Drive, a film she says in actuality has “very little driving”, that she sued the production company and the movie theater where she saw the film.
My hope was that the movie Sisters was also suffering from RMTS: Reductive Movie Trailer Syndrome. While it’s true that I was forced to watch the trailer more often than Trump makes a disparaging remark about minorities (thanks for the commercials Hulu) and movie trailers automatically become less funny the more you see them, I was alarmed at how little entertained I was by the trailer. The only riveting things about it were Tina Fey’s shiny hair and the fact that the actor Ike Barinholtz, who plays the vaguely unkempt and witless Morgan in The Mindy Project, is now being rebranded as the attractive boy-next-door leading man in the movie. I didn’t even crack a smile when Amy Poehler fell through the roof of her home, apparently in a misguided attempt to be sexy.
Despite my doubts, I went to go see Sisters with none other than my own sister (basic, I know). In the movie, Katie (Tina Fey) and Maura Ellis (Amy Poehler) are two adult sisters who are trying to get their lives in order. Katie is a hot-headed hairdresser who continuously quits the salons she works at. When we meet her, she is running shoddy salon services in her friend’s bathroom and is given an ultimatum by her teenage daughter who is sick of her being irresponsible. Maura, on the other hand, has a full time job as a nurse, but is portrayed as too self-sacrificing. She dedicates her life to helping others, but neglects her personal life and has not dated since her divorce two years previously. When their parents decide to sell their childhood home, the sisters travel to Orlando and overcome with nostalgia, invite all their high school friends to one final party in the house.
Like most of the jokes, the plot of Sisters works theoretically, but its execution paled in comparison to its potential. Perhaps the movie could have been better as a drama, a realistic exploration of what overcoming arrested development entails rather than being delivered as an attempt at comedy. At times, it seemed like this movie didn’t know what it wanted to be. The final scene when Maura realizes she needs to learn how to let others take care of her is completely corny (and not in an endearing way). Viewers are confused as the movie that depends on caricatures for its majority attempts to present fuller arcs of its characters in the last five or so minutes.
While their characters are largely undeveloped, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler remain a dream team. Their undeniable chemistry makes us invested in their siblingship and most of the time Sisters is still a testament to their ability to make us laugh. One particular moment of levity is when Maura, the overzealous saint, sprays who she perceives to be a homeless man with sunscreen so he won’t get burned but then this man turns out to be a construction worker. Another is when Katie is throwing shade at her high school nemesis Brinda in the middle of Big Lots. However, these moments are not enough to keep Sisters afloat.
In the end, Sisters relies too heavily on jokes that are crass simply for the sake of being crass. Ribaldry may invite hilarity, but it does not ensure it. Maura’s love interest James (Barinholtz) does some gardening, which prompts dirty jokes about “working on other people’s bushes” and wacking his “weed,” innuendos too easy to garner a smile. When later in the movie James slips on hair gel and gets a ballerina music box stuck in his butt, we cringe even further. The scene was completely unrealistic, which would have been fine had the actors embraced how unrealistic it was. Yet, because the moment was executed so seriously, it lost its humor (and the idea of someone getting a music box stuck in their ass is admittedly hilarious). An additional moment of failed comedy is during the climactic scene when Katie and Maura’s mother tells them that she is selling the house because she wants to be free from them and that she probably has more sex than the two of them combined. Do older people have sex? Yes. Is writer Paula Pell looking to gain some cheap laughs? Yes.
Sisters is not fully without merit, but it is a movie unlikely to leave any sort of lasting impression on its viewers. If you’re looking for some mind-numbing escapism and an excuse to eat some buttery movie popcorn, this may be your best bet. Otherwise stick to watching Poehler and Fey on SNL.
Gwen Aviles is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.