The Sisters (2005)

Genre(s): Drama
Anchor Bay || R - 113 minutes - $26.98 || June 13th, 2006
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2006-06-16


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Arthur Allan Seidelman
Writer(s): Richard Alfieri (screenplay/play), Anton Chekhov (inspired by)
Cast: Elizabeth Banks, Maria Bello, Erika Christensen, Steven Culp, Tony Goldwyn, Mary Stuart Masterson, Eric McCormack, Alessandro Nivola, Chris O'Donnell, Rip Torn


Theatrical Release Date: April 14th, 2006


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Writer & Director Commentary


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (1.85)
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Digital 2.0
  • Subtitles: None

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.::THE FILM::.

IMAGE

The Sisters, based on the play by Richard Alfieri (which in itself was inspired by “The Three Sisters” play by Chekhov), is about Prior siblings Marcia (Bello), Olga (Masterson) and the youngest, Irene (Christensen) as well as brother Andrew (Nivola) who deal with personal issues such as drug abuse to unrequited love. The film takes place primarily on one set, at a New York City private college faculty building. Other characters come in and out amongst the Prior’s arguments like Nancy Peckett (Banks), Andrew’s obnoxious fiancée, Marcia’s husband, Dr. Harry Glass (Culp), Vincent Antonelli (Goldwyn), a former colleague of the Prior’s father, David Turzin (O’Donnell) who has his own issues with one of the Prior sisters, and Gary Sokol, a wise-cracking, angry professor. Going in, one has to approach The Sisters much like Chicago and even Rent, as the dialogue takes time grasp. For instance, Marcia, talking with Vincent about her family: “Of course we seemed happy, after mother died; we were rewarded with father’s approval by doing exactly what he expected of us.” On the page, this doesn’t look awkward, however, regular people do not talk like this. But, after getting into the first 20-minutes, I accepted this as another world I do not know and may not even exist (perhaps amongst the scholarly types, which, you may have guessed, I’m not even close to being a part of).

What makes The Sisters worthwhile is despite the strange dialogue, stage-like feel and some overly dramatic and far too self-perceptive characters, I found myself enjoying it for the most part. In particular, I really liked the performance from Maria Bello, who does a fine job with a character that could come across a tad annoying, and makes her into the highlight of a film with so many recognizable and talented performers. Her performance is good enough, dare I say, worthy of a Golden Globe nomination (for which nods seem easy to come by).

Bello aside, this B-list all-star cast delivers fine performances Tony Goldwyn getting the silver medal in my opinion. The scenes he’s in, there’s a certain weight and sadness he brings to the scene, giving a reprieve from the drama that centers around the Prior sisters. Also doing good work are Erica Christensen and Chris O’Donnell, though I believe their performances were a little too subdued, Mary Stuart Masterson, who doesn’t get, comparatively speaking, as much depth as Maria’s character and Alessandro Nivola, who’s relationship with his sisters was defined as a "genetic acquaintance."

Adapting his own play, Richard Alfieri didn’t seem to do much with the screenplay other than changing formats. As previously stated the dialogue seems to come directly from the stage rather than fitting in with this world. Maybe this was his objective, giving this world a different spin and hope the audience can accept it.

The Sisters is not a great film by any stretch and as long as these characters admit their own biases, I guess I should as well. Taking a step back, I probably would give the film a 3 or 3.25, but I bumped it up since it they filmed it near my hometown in Eugene, Oregon, a rare occasion to have any semblance of a major production, let alone one taking place in New York City. So, take that for what you will.

It is, though, a film filled with some good performances and a unique style unseen on film. It’s also, on the other hand, a movie you either get into, or you don’t, I don’t think there’s much middle ground.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

This Anchor Bay release is fairly empty except for one item:

Writer & Director Commentary - Writer Alfieri is joined by director Arthur Seidelman as they both give anecdotal tid bits about casting these characters, what the story is about, filming in Oregon and even about the set design. Not exactly an entertaining track, but you get some information about the production.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

IMAGE

The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1 aspect ratio). I noticed quite a few of dust particles but overall, it looks good, but it’s nothing great. Just an all round good transfer...

You have the choice of the Dolby Digital 5.1 or the 2.0 stereo surround tracks. Of course, the 5.1 mix is better and enjoyable to the ear as in certain scenes there’s some depth, almost a quality similar to a stage play (given the dialogue, this is good in my book).



.::OVERALL::.

The Sisters is not a movie for everybody. Aside from the writing, the story, while compelling, isn’t exactly going to keep everyone’s attention. However, for Bello’s performance alone, it is worth renting at your local video store as the price for the DVD is steep.