my sister's keeper

After seeing Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, I thought nothing would ever cheer me up. So I figured I’d conclude a fine afternoon’s Theater Hopping Double Feature© by sneaking in to see My Sister’s Keeper, which could be alternately titled “that cancer girl movie where Cameron Diaz yells a lot.”

And My Sister’s Keeper is, indeed, that. Though that betrays the fact that it does a half decent job of accomplishing one of its goals (telling a coherent story), and an excellent job accomplishing the other (making ladies cry for an hour and 45 minutes).

The film centers on a girl dying of leukemia, and the trials her illness causes for her family, particularly her sister (Abigail Breslin), who was conceived in vitro as part of some mad scientist experiment to make spare parts for her ill sister (though the film only scratches the surface of examining just how fucked up that is). When Breslin grows tired of having no say in determining what happens to her own body, she sues her parents (Jason Patric and a “this is my serious face” Cameron Diaz) for medical emancipation. The film’s big twist reveals a master plan hidden under all the litigation.

My Sister’s Keeper is dark, lightened only by a few minutes of comic relief from smarmy lawyer Alec Baldwin, but it’s dark in the kind of way where you know everything will have some kind of positive resolution. Director Nick Cassavetes (chip off the old block, that guy) mines the uplifting moment out of every scene and bloated musical montage (the film actually has a scene scored with a down tempo version of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”).

Cassavetes, however, moves in line with the sensibilities of his core audience; I’m just not part of it. Despite a jumbled timeline, he manages to keep the story together, though perhaps with less emotional depth than he hoped for.

But, in some sense, that’s for the best. My Sister’s Keeper may make you cry, but it won’t make you feel. And that, I think, is just how its audience wants it.

Film: My Sister’s Keeper
Director: Nick Cassavetes
Stars: Cameron Diaz, Abigail Breslin, Jason Patric, Alec Baldwin, Sofia Vassilieva, Evan Ellingson

Viewing situation: Weekday matinee, small crowd; digital projection
My grade (out of 10): 4
Rotten Tomatoes average: 44%

Next up: Public Enemies

Summer Movie Suicide Mission ’09: Seeing them all, all summer long. Follow Summer Movie Suicide Mission on Twitter: @SMSM09. Check out the full list to date here.

30 Rock: Season Two Update

December 3, 2007

30 rock

In its second season, 30 Rock has rapidly become network prime time’s most reliable half hour. Its three leads, Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan, provide all three kinds of heat, (if you’ll pardon the 30 Rock inside joke), providing consistently strong performances week in and week out. With only two episodes left until the writer’s strike claims the show as its latest victim, the time is now to catch up with Liz Lemon and company. This season has made strong use of a number of guest stars (Carrie Fisher, Jerry Seinfeld, Edie Falco), and the ensemble has been as strong as ever.

30 Rock gets a great deal of mileage out of class based characters, specifically Baldwin’s Jack Donaghy. Donaghy is a both caricature and exemplar of a very specific kind of upper crust society. Donaghy dates Senators and Secretaries of State, goes to Christie’s auction house when he’s depressed, and always wears a tuxedo after six p.m. I like the fact that the depth of satire with Donaghy rarely rises above the “rich uncle pennybags” level. But that’s not to say that it doesn’t bite a little bit. Also, the satire of NBC and its corporate ownership is very pointed, and is reminiscent of C. Wright Mills’s idea of the “organization state” the idea, echoed by other scholars in more modern times, of the nation disappearing, being replaced by large corporations which own everything. Donaghy even has a chart at the ready to illustrate the full chain of corporate command.

Some of the finest Donaghy moments come in interaction with Morgan’s Tracy Jordan. The two work well in concert with each other because they’re both exceedingly rich and eccentric, even though they have nothing else in common.

With all this in mind, there has been no funnier moment on television this season than Donaghy, having lured Jordan into a therapy session, proceeding to act out all of Jordan’s family members as horribly offensive stereotypes. It speaks to 30 Rock’s parody of the class system that the Jordan character had a revelation about his impoverished past. It’s a very human moment from two thoroughly hilarious one-dimensional archetypes.

It’s a shame that in two weeks this show will be replaced with “America’s Next Top Hobo” (apologies again).

>>Mills, C. Wright, “On Intellectual Craftsmanship,” The Sociological Imagination. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1959.