The Other Sister

The Boston Phoenix

DIRECTED BY: Garry Marshall

REVIEWED: 03-01-99

Two trends in recent "women's" movies must be stopped. The first is the scene in which mom dances with the kids, usually in the bedroom with pillows, to some pop song and all differences are resolved. That has never happened in real life and, barring the influence of these films, never will. The second is having actresses portray characters with mental disabilities by talking like Crazy Guggenheim. It's a condescending and sentimental practice that strips them of their dignity for the safe amusement of audiences. And it's very annoying.

The Other Sister, from Garry Marshall, who's already responsible for debasing the image of women with Pretty Woman, is guilty of both trends. Juliette Lewis commits the second offense as a mentally challenged woman returning to her family home after spending time in a special school. Although Lewis mugs and sing-songs hideously (how cute she is when she says "penis!" How brave she is when she tells people to stop laughing at her!), she's not half as irritating as Diane Keaton as her mother. Controlling, whiny, and suffocating, Keaton almost seems posed as the cause of her daughter's disability, not to mention the drinking problem and Republicanism of hubby Tom Skerritt (the best thing in the movie).

To the rescue comes Giovanni Ribisi, who suffers from the same handicap and acting disorder as Lewis's character (his favorite movie is The Graduate; you wonder what he'd make of Rain Man). Their courtship is prolonged through three holidays, two weddings, and more than two hours of screen time; by the end I was longing for a sensitive portrait of the disabled like There's Something About Mary.

--Peter Keough

Capsule Reviews
The Other Sister

Other Films by Garry Marshall
Runaway Bride

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Great Expectations
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