Our Mission
Prize Trivia
The Golden Rules
Movie News
Movie Reviews
Submit a Review
Your Videos/Movies
Movies by Period/Category
Register & WIN!
my sisters keeper

My Sister's Keeper
Nick Cassavetes
Cast: Abilgail Breslin, Walkter Raney, Sofia Vassilieva, Cameron Diaz, Jason Patric, Alec Baldwin, Nicole Marie Lenz

Joanne Ross

July 7, 2009


In television ads for Nick Cassavetes’ new film My Sister’s Keeper, some critics have applauded it as “touching” and “heartwarming”. I don’t agree. Yes, the film aims to tug the heart and tear up the eyes. But it attempts to do so in a cheap way. For me, the adjectives that come to mind are mawkish and inauthentic. Apparently, the filmmakers (and perhaps the author of the book from which the film is adapted?) consider weeping and thinking to be mutually exclusive aims which is a shame because My Sister’s Keeper had the potential to offer an intelligent, insightful look at the legal, ethical, and moral dilemma facing a family fighting to save the life of a cancer-stricken child.

Kate Fitzgerald (Sofia Vassilieva) is diagnosed at a young age with a rare form leukemia. Her parents, Sara and Brian (Cameron Diaz and Jason Patric) refuse to accept what amounts to a death sentence for their daughter. At the veiled suggestion of her doctor (David Thornton), the Fitzgerald’s conceive a genetically engineered child to serve as a donor for Kate. Thus, their youngest daughter Anna (Abigail Breslin) exists for only one purpose – to save the life of her dying older sister. When Kate needs a kidney transplant, Anna refuses and contacts attorney Campbell Alexander (Alec Baldwin) to sue her parents for medical emancipation.

Such a set-up is rife with potential conflicts that would make for an intriguing, absorbing drama. But the filmmakers don’t deliver on that promise. Instead, the medical emancipation suit, which at first appears to be the focus of the film, is demoted to sub-plot status. The problem here is that My Sister’s Keeper suffers from an identity crisis. Just what is this movie supposed to be? A feel-good, Lifetime Television melodrama with impossibly well-adjusted characters? A portrait of a family in crisis? A love story between two doomed teenagers? A courtroom drama? These are four of the possibilities. Maybe it was meant to be all four, and if so, it was a bad decision. The different storylines dilute one another. And in truth, the medical emancipation storyline is the most powerful because it encompasses such broad territory, not only the legal aspects of the situation, but the ethical and moral, as well. Not to mention, the opportunity to explore the family conflicts inherent in the Fitzgerald’s efforts to help Kate.

Surely there must be tensions in a family where the parents are focused on one child at the expense of the others. The single minded devotion to Kate had to have engendered bad feelings in Anna and brother Jesse – jealousy, anger, resentment. Especially for Anna whose body is regularly farmed for bone marrow, stem cells, and organs for Kate. However, the only emotion the siblings have towards Kate seems to be one of love. In fact, the only conflict in the family concerns Sara’s attempt is dismiss Anna’s case in court to ensure the kidney transplant goes ahead, even if it is against Anna’s will.

With the exception of Baldwin and Vassilieva, the performances aren’t exceptional.
Jason Patric performs well in his role as Brian. To his credit, he does create the image of a level-headed, compassionate man. Cameron Diaz’s bull dog of a mother comes across as strident and insensitive to Anna’s human rights and wellbeing. Sara is a one-dimensional character. She’s meant to be sympathetic, but I was so appalled and angry at her behavior that I wanted to slap her. Although Breslin brings sincerity to her role, she seems unable to rise above her aura of terminal cuteness.

When her character isn’t being unbelievably optimistic, Vassilieva is lovely and affecting as Kate. However, top marks go to Baldwin in his brief role as Campbell. Baldwin is a master of nuance. He is capable of being direct and straightforward while subtlety hinting at something more going on with his character than meets the eye. Baldwn knows how to suggest, yet withhold. I wanted to know more about him – and in the courtroom scenes we learn what drives him to help Anna.

I haven’t read Jody Picoult’s book of the same name, so I don’t know the message she meant to convey. Maybe the film adheres to her vision. I don’t know. But I do know that whatever the story’s origins –novel adaptation or original screenplay – the film My Sister’s Keeper is a drama without a compelling intention. As a result it lacks the conflicts which could have elevated it from a jumbled, sentimental weeper to a thought-provoking and genuinely poignant movie.*-JR


We would love to hear what you think! Agree? Disagree with this Moviebuff? Send your Review in TODAY!
Click here to send us your review
Or copy and paste into your email browser:  reviews@moviebuffs.com
include your review in your email!