My Sister's Keeper (2009)

My Sister's Keeper (2009)

Director: Nick Cassavetes

Cast: Abigail Breslin as Andromeda 'Anna' Fitzgerald, Walter Raney as Pawn Shop Proprietor, Sofia Vassilieva as Kate Fitzgerald, Cameron Diaz as Sara Fitzgerald, Heather Wahlquist as Aunt Kelly, Jason Patric as Brian Fitzgerald, Evan Ellingson as Jesse Fitzgerald, Alec Baldwin as Campbell Alexander, Brennan Bailey as Jesse Fitzgerald - Age 10, Nicole Marie Lenz as Gloria (as Nicole Lenz), Olivia Hancock as Kate (Age 2), Jeffrey Markle as Dr. Wayne, Emily Deschanel as Dr. Farquad, John DeRosa as EMT #1, Marcos A. Ferraez as EMT #2 (as Marcos De La Cruz)

Nick Cassavetes is almost like a walking advertisement for Kleenex at
this point. After such shameless melodramtic weepers like "John Q" and
"The Notebook", I wasn't so keen on seeing "My Sisters Keeper", based
on the book by Jodi Picoult. Yet, every once in a while, a chick flick
comes along that touches the chick in every man.

Cameron Diaz plays Sara Fitgerald, who along with her husband Brian
(Jason Patric), makes the decision of genetically engineering a child
who will be a direct match to their leukemia-stricken 2-year-old
daughter Kate. Abigail Breslin plays the engineered child at age 11.
Her name is Anna, who since the age of 5, has had blood taken from her
and been put thru medical procedures to help keep Kate alive. Anna
loves Kate, played as a teenager by Sofia Vassileva, but when her
parents want to give Kate one of Anna's kidneys, Anna finally says
enough. Sure that no one is looking out for her interests, Anna hires a
lawyer (Alec Baldwin) and sues for the right to her own body. Sara, a
woman who has made caring for Kate her full-time job, is upset while
Brian understands. Meanwhile, Kate feels guilty that her disease is
tearing the family apart.

Cassavetes and co-screenwriter Nicholas Leven are dealing with a
straight-up tear-jerker here but it's astonishingly free of
heavyhandedness and it cuts deep with probing questions and real
emotion. These are characters with feelings and concerns, torn between
such complicated issues as saving a daughter by experimenting with
another, sacrificing your own body even though you know it will
diminish quality of life, and dealing with how a disease can burden a
family. The movie uses flashbacks (such as Kate being diagnosed as a
young child, her parents being given the choice of invitro, and a very
young Anna disturbingly forced into operations) and forwards (Kate
lying in a hospital bed, looking at a scrapbook of her family) that add
dimension. As do the switching of narrators, each character getting a
chance to offer their points of view and feelings about how the
diagnosis, and everything after it, has effected them.

Unfortunately it's also going in a lot of different directions, and add
in a dyslexic and lost-in-the-shuffle brother (Evan Ellingson), and
it's sometimes hard for Cassavete's to keep track of all of them. The
second act, in particular, has very little to do with the Sara-Anna
conflict and the more light-hearted scenes, such as the family
frolicking happily on a beach together, seem odd because you feel like
there is some contentiousness between Sara and Anna that really doesn't
come out til the ending courtroom scene.

However these are small problems rendered almost excusable by powerful
performances. Abigail Breslin has surpassed Dakota Fanning in all-out
maturity, juggling her characters fears for her own well being with the
remorse of not being strong enough for her sister. And Diaz is
strong-willed but obsessive, perfect as a one-track minded mother so
intent on trying to keep one daughter alive that she's not even
thinking about anything else. Jason Patric is the open and
understanding father and Alec Baldwin is good comic relief, playing a
lawyer so cocky, he sued God. And Sofia Vassileva is nothing short of
powerhouse, her heartbreaking performance rising above all the cancer
make-up and bloody vomitting and nosebleeds to find Kate's burdensome
guilt and brave soul. And only stone-hearts won't share in her joy as
she gets dressed up and goes to prom with another terminally ill boy
(Thomas Dekker).

I'm not saying this movie isn't a cheap excuse to make you cry, but as
far as cheap excuses go, this one is richly made. "My Sister's Keeper"
is as surprising and heartfelt a piece of work as I've seen all year
long, and the acting is about as good as it comes. With this and his
previous, "Alpha Dog", Cassavete's signals himself as a real filmmaker
as he rarely ever hits a false note. In a year filled with movies that
I've seen fail at finding the humanity in their stories, this one is a

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