This week, I went to the cinema twice. Considering I’ve only been to the cinema four times in the past year (two of those visits were this week), that’s a pretty incredible achievement for me. The two films which captured my attention so much that I had to see them up close and on the big screen were Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the Tina Fey/Amy Poehler collaboration Sisters. Both films coincidentally had the same release date, which actually put Sisters at a considerable disadvantage at the box office. Star Wars, with it’s pre-existing fanbase and six films had broken grossing records worldwide before the end of the opening weekend. Being released on the same day seemed to allow the two films to be pitted against each other, resulting in Poehler and Fey’s hilarious trailer (The Farce Awakens) spawning the hashtag #youcanseethemboth. Because, you can. And I did. And this is what I learnt.
As a life-long (or since Mean Girls) fan of Tina Fey and someone who would consider Parks & Rec as their favourite show of all time, I was pretty excited to see Sisters. Excited, but skeptical. I am a huge fan of the pretty recent trend of female-led comedies, see Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy etc, but having watched Baby Mama (Fey and Poehler’s previous collaboration), I didn’t actually expect too much from Sisters. Fey and Poehler are undoubtedly hilarious actors, comedians and screenwriters and although their SNL skits are borderline genius, I didn’t expect too much from Sisters. I am pleased to report, I was misguided. I mean, Baby Mama is still terrible, but we don’t judge Ridley Scott on G.I. Jane so maybe I should have given my girls a bit more slack. Tina Fey is Kate; a single mum whose desperate attempts to get her life together seem to be failing miserably, and Amy Poehler is Maura; a nurse with a nice apartment but lacks the ability to have any sort of fun.Their mission? To stop their aging parents from selling their childhood home. Sisters is a fun throwback to childhood and to family. It’s essentially a trip down memory lane and is a simple reminder of the important things in life. The narrative is straightforward (about ¾ of the film takes place at the insane last-hurrah house party that Kate and Maura throw) but the simplicity allows the film to excel in other areas.
Firstly, it’s insanely funny. From awkward chat-up lines to childhood feuds to butt-ballerinas, Sisters knows how to keep an audience laughing. There’s a real mix of straight up slapstick (Maura falling through the roof of the house or the sinkhole) with more dialogue heavy comedic moments. Whilst Fey and Poehler provide most of the comedy, it is the addition of some of the supporting casts that really carries the humour throughout. Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, Bobby Moynihan and more all provide uniquely funny characters. Sisters works on the same level as The Hangover – just when you think things can’t get any worse, they inevitably do.Throw into the mix some very quotable one liners (“I am cuntingly disappointed in you”), Sisters is dirty, sordid and hilarious.
What Sisters excelled at, though, was the portrayal of a relationship between sisters. There were so many little quips and actions that had my sister and I nudging each other in the cinema whispering ‘That is so you!’. Wholly relatable and believable, Fey and Poehler’s repertoire onscreen was heart-warming. Fey especially, who tends to only play characters who are relatively similar to herself, was actually really good as scatty, boozy, sex-obsessed Kate. A far cry from in-bed-by-10pm Liz Lemon. It’s probably comes as no surprise to anyone that Fey and Poehler had incredible onscreen chemistry, but for me that repertoire lifted Sisters out of simply being a comedy and something that in end was rather touching.
Although I thoroughly enjoyed the film, there were a few moments that had me biting my tongue. Well, one moment really. The two sisters are in a nail bar having a pedicure, and Maura begins a conversation with one of the Korean nail artists, Hae-Won. The skit begins as a very funny deconstruction of white attitudes towards POC/minority groups as Maura asks Hae-Won what her real name is, not her ‘American’ name. Maura wants to ‘free’ Hae-Won from the oppression of her boss at the nail salon and asks her and the other girls to come to the party. There’s a cringe-worthy exchange (that I admittedly found very funny) between Maura and Hae-Won about the pronunciation of Hae-Won’s name. Although Hae-Wan becomes a larger character by attending the party, and having some pretty hilarious scenes of her own, she doesn’t really break out of the asian stereotype at any point. Her lack of development made me question whether Hae-Won’s character and the exchange with Maura was racist, or whether it was critiquing the idea of white-feminism and white saviorism. You know the old saying… if you’re questioning if something is racist, it probably is…
Take your sister, go and see it. If you don’t have a sister, maybe you can borrow someone else’s? Either way, it’s definitely worth seeing
(a little side-note: Comedies starring/written by/directed by women always get a harsher rap than those starring/written by/directed by men. This film is as funny, if not funnier, than most of the white-male-centric trash that Seth Rogen, Todd Philips, James Franco etc put out year after year. This is, of course, my opinion but if you’re sick of hearing misogynistic jokes or watching comedies filled with fallic-worship then Sisters is right for you. There’s only one penis joke. It is funny though, I swear…)
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
(Another-another side-note: Carrie Fisher is the greatest person on earth right now, and there was not enough of her in the film. For that, I take a few points off)