Jul 24, 2014

Review: The Other Sister (1999)

Using a mentally handicapped character in a movie is nothing new. Forrest Gump is obviously one that worked exceedingly well as have greats like Rain Man and One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest. But then we also have duds like Radio or I Am Sam. Robert Downey Jr.'s Tropic Thunder character Kirk Lazarus is famous for having said "Everybody knows you never go full retard." Basically, Hollywood awards people loves mentally handicapped characters but only if they balance their handicap with some kind of talent. 

So does Juliette Lewis go "full retard" in The Other Sister? Yes she does and Garry Marshall painfully uses her handicap as an excuse to make the viewer feel something for the main character. Everything else about TOS is exactly as you'd imagine in a Marshall directed flick along with Hector Elizondo playing some sort of minor character. It's just pretty sad that he would stoop as low as using a mentally challenged character as a crutch without building any sort of convincing character development.


Genre: comedy, drama, romance
Directed by: Garry Marshall
Produced by: Alexandra Rose, Mario Iscovich, David Hoberman
Written by: Alexander Rose, Blair Richwood, Garry Marshall, Bob Brunner
Music by: Kyle Vincent
Running time: 129 minutes
Production company: Touchstone Pictures
Distributed by: Buena Vista Pictures
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $35,000,000
Box office: $27,807,627 (North America)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Juliette Lewis, Diane Keaton, Tom Skerritt, Giovanni Ribisi, Poppy Montgomery, Sarah Paulson, Linda Thorson, Joe Flanigan, Juliet Mills, Tracy Reiner, Hector Elizondo




Carla Tate (Juliette Lewis) comes home after a stay at a boarding school for the mentally handicapped. Elizabeth Tate (Diane Keaton) is glad to have her home but she's overprotective and overbearing which starts to push the two apart. Carla immediately wants to go to high school and has aspirations of being in own apartment while Elizabeth thinks it's better if she just goes on a long vacation and think stuff over later. Even falling in love is pretty much discouraged for Carla who has to make that decision when she meets Danny (Giovanni Ribisi). 



The Other Sister could not be more obvious in its attempts at making the viewer feel a certain way. From cringeworthy flashbacks to wailing hysterics, the closest comparison I can think of is having a man kneel beside you, begging you to feel sad now, begging you to feel happy now while squeezing your arm really hard. That's pretty apt I think. Garry Marshall, Bob Brunner and the four writers who did the story should be embarrassed for this complete lack of subtlety. Instead of hiding even half an ace up its sleeve, The Other Sister has every card in the deck spread out on the table. 

The other thing about The Other Sister that really irked me is that there is pretty much nowhere in the movie that showcases how Carla is ambitious or that she actually is ready to be more independent. Where does she push the envelope? It never gets shown except by people just saying it which isn't enough. Diane Keaton's character is just plan old mean to be opposed to Carla's independence right? She's wrong about Carla and that's that. (Spoilers) Then all of a sudden when Elizabeth Tate is asked if Carla is reliable and won't cause any damage to an apartment on her own, Elizabeth raises her hackles and claims that she's just unique and she's completely reliable. The change in Keaton's character is handled just terribly and unconvincingly. (End Spoilers)

Carla Tate and Danny's scenes together don't have a lot of storytelling to do. They're mostly just cutesy scenes that don't really go anywhere. When it comes to performances, Juliette Lewis is like how we'd all imagine a mentally handicapped person to be but it doesn't have any truth in reality. A terrible performance, coupled with an awful script and it's not hard to see why Lewis was nominated for Worst Supporting Actress at the Razzies of 1999 (supporting?). Tropic Thunder's Kirk Lazarus came about too late I guess. Giovanni Ribisi is maybe a little bit better, but not really. 

You will be surprised exactly zero times when you watch The Other Sister. You will have that begging man on his knees trying to make you feel a certain way. Should you still watch The Other Sister? If you like spending your time with the palm of your hand on your face, then I invite you to spend an evening watching this 129 minute film completely. You'll love it, I promise.



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