"My Sister's Keeper" **1/2 (108 minutes)

Tuesday June 23, 2009

Director Nick Cassavetes has teamed once again with co-screen writer Jeremy Levens (2004's "The Notebook"), and has assembled an impressive cast to produce one of this summer's bigger disappointments. The concept, put forth by Jodi Picoult's best-seller, is intriguing and thought-provoking: a daughter ("Little Miss Sunshine's"s Abigail Breslin) is created via invitro fertilization to be a perfect organ match to her dying sister (effectively played by Sofia Vassilieva). Unfortunately, Cassavetes execution is painfully maudlin.

The acting, as expected, is not the problem. Everyone gives a capable and believable performance, especially Cameron Diaz who finally is given a script to showoff some valid acting chops. She's the mom who is desperately trying to keep her eldest daughter alive-despite the fact that the youngest has finally cried "foul" when asked to donate a kidney after repeatedly donating throughout her young life. She's decided to take her case to a local hotshot lawyer (Alec Baldwin giving another nice supporting job) in order to make her own life-changing/life-giving decisions. And a sequence involving Sofia becoming romantically involved with another cancer patient (well played by Evan Ellingson) she meets in the hospital is sweet and affecting. Only Jason Patric (as the girls' father) is given little to do but appear sympathetic to the younger daughter's situation.

The main problem I had is that you can see pretty much where the plot is going and the obvious manipulation to pull those tears from your eyes had my eyes rolling more often than not. And those music-video like sequences just feel silly and awkward compared to the overall heavy seriousness of the film.

I like a good tear-jerker every now and then (in fact, I'm a fan of "The Notebook"). It just seemed a shame that this controversial topic wasn't handled in a more intelligent way that just dissolving into a corny mess. I suppose the book is a lot better.

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