My Sister’s Keeper (2009)

(On Cable TV, February 2017) I expected much, much worse from My Sister’s Keeper. On paper, it reads as the kind of weepy manipulative Hollywood drama that got satirized out of existence decades ago: a mixture of cancer-afflicted kids, precocious protagonists and ineffectual adults manipulated into melodramatic actions. On-screen, though, it’s not quite as bad … even though its nature as a tearjerker remains intact. Part of it has to do with good actors and small moments where the script doesn’t quite go as expected. I quite liked Alec Baldwin’s lawyer character, for instance, and the ways in which an entire movie’s worth of motivations is suggested for Joan Cusak’s judge character. Professionally directed by Nick Cassavetes (no stranger to weepies) from Jodi Picoult’s eponymous novel (apparently changed to much better effect), My Sister’s Keeper also benefits from a great performance by Abigail Breslin in the lead role, and a borderline-unlikable Cameron Diaz as the mother antagonist. But perhaps less identifiably, the film does have a good moment-to-moment watchability that can often doom less well-executed attempts on similar material. It remains a straight character drama, but one put together with some skill. And that makes all the difference between something that sounds terrible, and something that’s engaging.

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