It’s at a snail’s pace, but things in Hollywood are gradually shifting in favour of female performers, characters and creators. Women directors are taking the helm and movies with all-female leads are appearing on the marquee more often. Statistics show films with these attributes perform well at the box office so hopefully studio-thinking will catch up with feminism sooner rather than later and start giving these projects the green light. In the meantime, it’s up to a select few to lead the charge. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler‘s Sisters is one of these pictures.
Kate and Maura Ellis (Fey and Poehler) are incredibly close, though they couldn’t be more different. Kate’s life is a disaster. She can’t hold onto a job, no longer has a home of her own and her daughter refuses to live with her on friends’ couches, disappearing for the majority of the summer. Maura is the responsible one, but she’s become somewhat stunted after her divorce. When their parents (James Brolin and Dianne Wiest) decide to sell their childhood home, the pair return to relive their past and hopefully scare off the potential buyers. But when Maura realizes Kate had all the fun when they were teens, she demands they have one last party to rival all others so she can sow some wild oats and seduce a handsome neighbour (Ike Barinholtz).
There’s no question Fey and Poehler are an excellent duo. From doing sketch comedy on Saturday Night Live to hosting the Golden Globes awards ceremony, the real-life friends have repeatedly demonstrated they complement each other in any endeavour — but they had yet to star in a feature together. Perhaps waiting for the right project, they definitely found it with this title. Directed by Jason Moore, who also helmed Pitch Perfect, the women embrace their over-the-top sister characters and have fun with their insecurities, passions and drunkenness; and he very smartly appears to let them lead the way.
The first act lays the groundwork for what is probably one of the most epic, American, middle-aged parties ever shown on screen. Comparing diary entries, Kate recounts racy encounters with high school boyfriends while Maura’s excitement was limited to science projects. But once they’ve carefully selected the invitees, tried on inappropriate party attire and gathered all the supplies (alcohol and chips), the real fun begins… sort of. Most will be familiar with the first stage of the event in which someone wants to bring their child, someone else talks about a medical procedure and the subject of ill parents dominate the conversation. But some choice words spoken over a microphone and a change in music finally turns the snooze fest into a booze fest that rivals all the bashes they had in their adolescence. Except that Kate is designated “party mom” and experiencing all this for the first time sober.
At times it’s crude, absurd and even annoying. But the cast of seasoned comedians and SNL alumni know their roles, and relive their ill-spent youths with sincerity and enthusiasm. Bobby Moynihan makes the most significant transition from an irritating, in-your-face joker trying too hard to get a laugh to a more subtle clown who often delivers hilarity from the background. And Maya Rudolph is entertaining as the mean girl literally left out in the cold and desperately trying to get inside the party she’s simultaneously sabotaging. John Cena also makes an appearance as a muscular drug dealer who remains straight-faced through most of the antics, but doesn’t make much of an impression either; while John Leguizamo remains the ne’er-do-well he was in high school minus the mullet.
This movie is reminiscent of the multitude of house party films featuring teens breaking the rules, only instead their forty-something and much funnier.