Well done, not for everyone
Anders Martinson | Oregon | 08/15/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Chekhov's coutryman Leo Tolstoy said that "every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Maybe so, the Prior/Prozorov family is certainly unhappy (and as some negative reviews have indicated, insufferable) in a way many of us would hope to avoid, but their pain is nevertheless accessible in this story.
Anyone considering this film should go in knowing that it deals with a painful story of wounded souls. If you're not up for the genre, pass on this out of hand. It starts off sad and gets sadder. Hey, it's Chekhov for goodness sake. And speaking of Chekhov, it's theatre, so be prepared for the mannered dialog and the fact that most of the story takes place on a single set.
Everyone in the cast turns in a top-notch and complex performance that allows the viewer to have compassion for characters one would most wish to avoid in real life. As Donald Rumsfeld might say, you go through life with the family you have, not the family you'd wish to have.
The story here is how Prior/Prozorov family goes through that life and how they pay the price for the choices they make and the circumstances they couldn't avoid. If you're up for a glimpse into their journey, you will enjoy this story.
At the same time I would point out that I sympathize with the negative reviews. If you see any glimmer of similar tastes that click with you in the negative reviews (in particular discussions of the screenwriter/playwright's use of dialog and the character of the characters), stay away. This story is not for everybody.
Finally I'd say that the DVD is way overpriced for a production of this type that includes little in the way of extras. Rent don't buy."
Cheap Looking, But Really Good
Joshua Miller | Coeur d'Alene,ID | 07/03/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Explaining a movie like "The Sisters" is kind of hard. Not because the movie so good, it's unexplainable...But because it's very good in a low-key kind of way, but doesn't really have a plot you can explain. It's based on a play and that's obvious. There's very few settings, it mostly takes place in a college faculty lounge; There's long dramatic speeches from some of the actors and it has the feeling of a debut film that was made as a college project...Although, it's not. For some reason, I liked this movie though. I liked it a lot. When it opens, it's in a faculty lounge. This is where we're introduced to several of the characters. Marcia (Maria Bello) and Olda Prior (Mary Stuart Masterson) who are setting up a surprise party for their baby sister Irene (Erika Christensen). There's two men (college professors) playing chess; One of them is the very professional David Turzin (Chris O'Donnell...Yes, he is still alive) and the other is the very sarcastic Gary Sokol (Eric McCormack, Will on "Will & Grace"). Another man in the room is Dr. Chebrin (Rip Torn) who frequently points out things in the newspaper.
Then a man named Vincent (Tony Goldwyn) shows up and says that he worked with the sisters' father when they were young; although he appears to be close to the same age. Then, the sisters' brother Andrew (Allesandro Nivola) shows up with his fiancee' Nancy (Elizabeth Banks), who nobody likes. Then the perfect little sister Irene shows up; Nancy and Marcia argue and throw insults at each other. Later, Irene overdoses on crystal meth and is found by David, who was following her. They later get engaged, but Gary Sokol is in love with her. There's also a couple secrets we learn from Marcia, when they discover their little sisters secret. It's all long and seems complicated, but it's far from it. It's like they filmed a play basically. But the film does work, in some weird way. It does exert some form of entertainment. Turns out McCormack is the highlight of the movie, his character Gary Sokol's sarcasm is hilarious. But the fact is, this is a slow-paced movie that leads to nowhere. It's not for everybody, but I liked it.
"Darling, discretion is called for even in intimate relation
M. J Leonard | Silver Lake, Los Angeles, CA United States | 06/14/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Sisters is a movie that will no doubt polarize audiences. The critics hated it when it came out in theatres earlier this year with most of them labeling the film as a madly overwritten, pompous, dour, and overwrought psychodrama with about as much subtly as a sledgehammer. Yes - it's all those things, but the fact that it's so over-the-top is the reason why the film works. And it also features some great acting - particularly by Maria Bello.
Loosely adapted from the Chekhov play, The Three Sisters, The Sisters is all about sibling rivalry, intellectual snobbery and betrayal in love. Under Arthur Allan Seidelman's accomplished direction, The Sisters has a heightened artificially, with the actors performing as though they are actually on the stage. This can be a bit jarring and grating at first, but once you get used to it, it becomes quite effective because it reminds us of the stuffy intellectual insularity of this family and their world.
Even before the youngest Prior sister Irine (Erika Christensen) arrives for her annual "surprise" birthday party at a Manhattan faculty club, the characters are managing to spew hatred and vitriol at each other. Marcia (Bello) is deeply unhappy in her marriage with Dr. Harry Glass (Stephen Culp) whom she met while attending a psychiatric conference and she's spent most of her adult life carrying deep-seated emotional baggage.
Molested by her father, when she was a little girl, Maria resents that fact that her older sister Olga (Mary Stuart Masterson) who never bothered to take the molestation seriously. She's also angry that her darling kid brother David (Alessandro Nivola) who has gone and married the flashy and trashy - but also shrewd and oddly dignified - Nancy (Elizabeth Banks), a former sales girl with a Brooklyn accent.
Much of the first half of the movie involves Marcia venting her anger, picking at the poor insecure Nancy for not being educated and sophisticated enough for David or for her family. Into this psychosexual morass wanders Vincent (Tony Goldwyn) as their father's former assistant who takes an instant liking to Marcia. He's not put off by her emotional cruelty; in fact, it's one of the many things he seems to admire about her.
Also attending the faculty club is Sokol (Eric McCormack), a compulsive cynic, whose dry wit gets on everyone's nerves and David (Chris O'Donnell), an earnest young man, both vying for Irene's attention. There's also a jolly old professor (Rip Torn), who acts as a type of cipher and witness to all this rabid dysfunction.
From the outset it is obvious these sisters are all highly educated and accomplished, representing all there is to aspire to in terms of learning and academia, but inside they're roiling with unreleased emotion: Approaching middle age, Olga hides her sexual orientation, remaining deeply closeted and lonely. Irene has become addicted to crystal meth and ends up in the hospital, and Marcia...well, she's just an angry and neurotic basket case who seems to have wasted much of her life on being emotionally cruel to everyone around her.
The acting is strong, with Bello the centerpiece of all this swirling resentment and desire that persistently engulfs the family. The actress really manages to bring out Marcia's sadism, vulnerability, self-disgust, and the playfulness, and a frustrating sexual longing. The script is sophisticated, with the vitriolic barbs flying every which way - it's all about the verbal sparring of the intellectual set. The production design is quite beautiful and it emphasizes the stuffy claustrophobia of these characters inner lives.
The Sisters -and also most of the other characters in the film - are unable to intuit and break though the emotional constraints around them. The only way they no how to do this is with trading insults, rudeness and ugly behavior.
More than any of them, Marcia is often stymied by her past and by her family's urge to overanalyze feelings right out of existence. She's just so damaged by life's hard knocks that she just can't cope with any expression of sensitivity or kindness. In the end she achieves some sort of peace, but her eventual salvation comes at a terrible price. Mike Leonard June 06.
A Reminder of How Powerful Theater Can Be
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 06/23/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"THE SISTERS is adapted by Richard Alfieri from his play 'The Sisters' which in turn was adapted from Anton Chekov's 'The Three Sisters': the theatrical aspects of the play remain intact in this film version - and that is most definitely a plus! All of the action takes place on an obvious set (an enormously beautiful Faculty Lounge for a university where nearly everyone in the play is employed, and in a hospital waiting room) and the lines are richly imbued with dialogue that mirrors Chekov's form despite the fact that Chekov's play has been updated to the present time with all the changes (and similarities!) of modern day family life.
The story is well known: a family of three sisters and a baby brother are both united and bonded by the past and show the scars of maturing on their journeys from a childhood to adulthood with a father that was both a hero to some and an incestuous attacker to another. One by one each of the sisters and the brother peel away the trappings that hide each other's realities and make public the pain endured in their dysfunctional family. Maria Bello as Marcia carries the bulk of the story as the abused, spiteful, vitriolic, unhappy head of the family unit: she is astonishingly fine. Mary Stuart Masterson is Olga, the closeted lesbian chancellor who has never had the luxury of sharing her private feelings with her sisters for fear of the consequences of her sexuality. Erika Christensen is the youngest sister Irene whose painful life as being treated as a child leads to her life of drug abuse. Allesandro Nivola is Andrew, the baby brother left in charge of the family estate in the South and has married a trashy, mouthy floozy Nancy (Elizabeth Banks) who is the sole challenge to the family's unity. The stalwart Greek chorus is the old professor Dr. Chebrin (Rip Torn) who watches as the various characters tangential to this crumbling family vie for inclusion: Gary Sokol (Eric McCormack) whose asides keep the theatrical flavor moving; David Turzin (Chris O'Donnell) who loves and wants to possess Irene and is in bitter competition with Gary for her affections; psychologist husband of Marcia Dr. Harry Glass (Steven Culp); and the visitor from the past Vincent Antonelli (Tony Goldwyn) who changes Marcia's existence transiently. Each actor is superb, playing the marvelous dialogue for all its worth and giving us fully realized characterizations. Arthur Allan Seidelman is the fine director and the elegant musical score is by Thomas Morse.
There is action in this story and movement inside and outside the ways films should be shot when making a play into a movie. But for those who love the theater seeing this film little film will create a desire to have this exact company of actors set up shop in a nearby legitimate theater to allow for the grand impact of a fine play sifted through a fine adaptation to be absorbed repeatedly. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, June 06