August Issue 2009

By | Arts & Culture | Movies | Published 15 years ago

The bothersome thing about My Sister’s Keeper is that it could have been many things — an arresting courtroom drama or a masterpiece of family dynamics. However, it ends up being nothing more than a sappy chick-flick.

Based on Jodi Picoult’s bestselling novel of the same name, there’s a lot to appreciate about My Sister’s Keeper’s storyline. Anna Fitzgerald (Abigail Breslin), who was conceived only as a genetic match for her leukemia-stricken elder sister Kate (Sofia Vassilieva), is tired of her body being used as spare parts. Anna, along with her lawyer Campbell Alexander (Alec Baldwin), decides to sue her parents Sarah (Cameron Diaz) and Bryan (Jason Patric) for medical emancipation — essentially, for rights over her own body. The problem is that Kate is dying and she needs Anna’s kidney to survive.

The cast’s acting fails to impress. Only a few people were compelled to fall for the tear-jerking soft-focus lens that the director employed much too frequently.

Cameron Diaz is not at all convincing in her role as a mother. There’s a difference between being a passionate mother and a screaming actress — something Diaz hasn’t figured out. But maybe that’s not entirely her fault — her motherly portrayals aren’t given the chance to be believable. When her daughter, Kate, cries over being so ugly that she doesn’t want to get out of bed, Diaz rushes out of the room and shaves off her own hair. Once the flashback has passed, you always see Diaz with her sassy blond hair — there’s no in-between phase. Her role as a hot-shot lawyer has even less impact. At best, her performance is shrill and hysterical.

Abigail Breslin, who has given amazing performances in movies like Definitely Maybe and Little Miss Sunshine, is lost in the chaos of weepy emotions. While in the novel she’s the main character, in the movie, she’s second-string to Sofia Vassilieva. While it’s difficult to watch Kate suffer as she looks death in the face, there’s also something very detached about Diaz’s hysteria, Jason Patric’s stoninesss and Breslin’s cuteness.

Moreover, as the movie continues, you realise that Sarah has left her job as a lawyer to be Kate’s full time care-taker and Bryan is a fire-fighter. You’d think with the health-care bills, and a fire-fighter’s salary, they wouldn’t be able to carry on in their massive house — but that’s not a problem in Hollywood. Nor is Kate and Anna’s relationship affected by the issue at hand.
And that’s without the surprise ending for fans of the book. While Picoult’s novel had a poignant, fulfilling ending, the movie version lacks the brilliance of Picoult’s over-arching message.

All in all, My Sister’s Keeper is the type of movie that would be sponsored by tissue-paper companies, nothing more.