Two sisters decide to throw one last party at their childhood home before their parents sell it.
Jason Moore, 2015
When she discovers that her parents are planning to sell her childhood home, uptight nurse Maura Ellis (Amy Poehler) is tasked with telling her wild sister Kate (Tina Fey). Devastated by their parents’ decision, Maura and Kate decide to throw one last party in the house, just like the ones they threw in high school. While they prepare for the party, Maura tries to convince Kate to get a job and settle down in Florida, then bring her daughter Haley (Madison Davenport) out there. Maura also invites James (Ike Barinholtz), a local man she flirted with. On the night of the party, Maura convinces Kate to be the responsible sister for once, so that Maura can cut loose. Inviting a bunch of 40-year-olds over to act like teenagers has unexpected consequences, though, and the sisters’ struggles come to a head at the party.
Sisters is an uneven comedy that isn’t sure what it wants to be. The film’s framing concept – that two 40-something women are completely distraught at the idea of their parents selling their childhood home – is so ludicrous that it’s hard to connect with either character on an emotional level. Tina Fey benefits from having a more coherent character summary and more linear journey as Kate. She’s much more effective than Amy Poehler’s Maura, who is inconsistent and ill-defined. She suffers from the film’s struggle to have its cake and eat it too – Maura is supposed to be the conservative, repressed sister, but in order to have funny moments she has to break out of that mould too often. Also, while the two actresses have great chemistry, they rarely really feel like actual sisters. It’s possible that could have been helped by more appearances by the terrific Dianne Wiest as their mother, who seems more real than either of her on-screen daughters and steals every scene she’s in. The bracketing storyline has far too few laughs in it to justify how silly and heavily reliant on tropes it is. There are a few moments of genuine emotion that break through, but not enough of them to justify the attempt to balance heartfelt storytelling with over-the-top, sketch-style comedy.
If the film had relied on its central conceit, it would have been a lot better. The concept of 40-year-olds at a massive end-of-high-school style party provides for plenty of hilarious antics. There are some particularly funny moments from John Cena as a drug dealer that Kate is attracted to and Rachel Dratch as a woman whose life is falling apart, but most of the supporting cast get to have at least one funny scene. The film doesn’t spend too long on one character, handling the balance so that a number of funny people (and, rather wonderfully, lots of funny women who aren’t Hollywood-pretty) get moments to shine. Ike Barinholtz is just gorgeous as Maura’s love interest, funny and cute. He’s the perfect example of a love interest in a film designed to appeal to women – he may not be Chris Hemsworth, but he’s cute and kind and interested in Maura, and he’s so appealing. He has some side-splittingly funny moments during the party that are well worth the price of admission. Watching the party get increasingly out of hand is immensely satisfying, particularly once the outlandish comedy moments finally start to match the film’s pace. It’s before and after the party that the film falls down.
Sisters on IMDb