Movie Review By Heather Clisby
"The Other Sister" is a Garry Marshall film about two mentally disabled people who meet, fall in love and face the usual obstacles of that predicament - times ten. It's a sweet, funny love story that has certainly been told before in varying degrees but never with so much heart.
Kudos to Juliette Lewis, who plays the strong-willed Carla with genuine innocence. In a flashback, we see her wealthy parents have a difficult time dealing with her special needs. Ultimately, they make the difficult decision to send her away for professional care and schooling and when Carla comes home to them eight years later, relations are strained.
Tom Skerritt plays Radley, Carla's exceedingly patient father, in one of his tenderest roles to date. Diane Keaton is Carla's stern and frightened mother, Elizabeth, who resists letting her daughter make her own way into the big, bad world. Keaton does some frightful overacting in the first half of the film but settles into the role as the story progresses.
When Carla meets Danny, played by the always-surprising Giovanni Ribisi, it's Like at first site. With the usual social pleasantries out of their reach, the couple does a lot of hovering and plain speaking. "I love the blues," Carla tells him; "I love marching bands" he responds.
Because of their mental capacity, Carla & Danny approach life and love with childlike simplicity. It's freeing to witness unadorned honesty in adult situations with nary a trace of sarcasm to darken the words - such as when Carla puts off sex until later so it can be special and Danny quietly protests, "But I feel special now." The sheer logic of these sentences is hilarious but I can already hear the PC police hot on the trail of this - Gawd, I can't wait until the 90s are over!
There is a repetitive scenario with Carla and her mother arguing back and forth about the young woman's limits. Whatever Carla wants next - a real education, her own apartment, a boyfriend, a marriage - Mom is never ready to hear it. "I'm too tired for an important conversation," she says but Carla persists. "You never look at me," she tells her mother.
Elizabeth is a wealthy do-gooder who believes that parents are judged by how well their children are doing and does a bit of inventory one afternoon to her husband. "I've got a lesbian workaholic, an underachiever and a child with needs I'm not equipped to deal with." Whine, whine, whine - hers is not a sympathetic character.
Thankfully, it's not all flowers and simple smiles and cute dialogue. Juliette Lewis is a hell of a screamer and in one pivotal scene, the color rises to her face so quickly, it's astounding what she physically emulates with this role. I dare say that if this film doesn't reach you at all, you might want to check your pulse.
© 1999 - Heather Clisby - Air Date: 3/3/99
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