Family relationships can be messy. Especially between sisters. And even more so when those fey sisters are, well, poehler opposites.
Kate Ellis is a sassy, brassy, no-nonsense hairdresser whose prickly attitude, big mouth and consistently terrible choices have alienated everyone in her life … and made it difficult for her to hold a job very long to boot. Kate's sister, Maura, is a divorced nurse who compulsively takes care of everyone whether they need to be cared for or not—including a guy she thinks is homeless outside a drug store. She's a model of consistent, careful, conscientious concern.
Now place those two wildly differing personalities in this situation: The sisters' parents have decided to sell the family home in Orlando, and they need their girls to come clean out their shared room.
Of course Maura wants to do exactly what Mom and Dad have asked. And of course Kate wants to stage a raging party in the house. (Note that their parents have already moved out, and there's a pre-sale inspection scheduled in a couple of days.)
But then things get weird as the girls suddenly flip the script. Maura begins predatorily pursuing a hunky guy she meets down the street, and Kate pledges to stay sober while a bunch middle-aged friends get sloshed, get stoned and get busy tearing the place apart.
Kate longs to be a good mom to her daughter, Haley (who is now in college), but her frequently immature choices frustrate the girl. So Haley has connected with the more responsible Maura, even living with her aunt for a while as Maura serves as a healthier kind of surrogate mom. Kate's incensed when she eventually finds out, but slowly realizes how her own choices have driven her daughter away. When Haley falls into a sinkhole (and why wouldn't she?), Kate jumps in to rescue her—a sacrificial act that goes a long way toward reestablishing their relationship.
Maura looks for the best in everything, all the way down to printing business cards bearing positive-thinking aphorisms. It's cheesy, of course, but Maura's sincere about wanting to help, well, pretty much everyone. Elsewhere, Maura and her would-be boyfriend, James, have down-to-earth conversations about their deepest fears. James also tells her, "A house is just a building. Home is a feeling."
Kate tries to help a friend who's struggling with feeling middle-aged. Kate and an old enemy reconcile in the end. When Kate's told that she was to have received a portion of the house's sale proceeds, she sobers up quite quickly as she surveys the damage done.
Passing reference is made to Jehovah's Witnesses. Kate jokes, "People in hell want ice water too."
Verbal sex-related content fills this flick from start to finish. We hear repeated references, most of them either crude or obscene, to vaginas, penises, pubic hair, breasts, oral sex, anal sex, teen sex, threesomes, masturbation, virginity, menstruation, tampons, pads, IUDs, crabs and homosexuality. Several jokes revolve around lesbian stereotypes.
Kate tells a prospective employer she'll text him pictures of her breasts if he gives her a job, then threatens to do it anyway when he says no. She pulls up her shirt to flash James. (She's wearing a bra.) She and Maura are shown taking a bath together (reading their teen journals to each other while covered with bubbles). They try on very revealing outfits at a store and later wear more cleavage-baring clothes. Things get strangely sexual when Maura, at work, rubs lotion on an elderly man's legs.
A couple has (mostly clothed) sex right in the middle of the crowd of partygoers. (We hear explicit sexual noises above the din of the party.) Kate and Maura interrupt their parents having sex, and we see Dad using a conch shell to cover himself. A stoned man removes his pants, dips his privates in paint (offscreen) and uses his penis to paint a giant phallus on the wall (which Kate then takes suggestive selfies with while she pantomimes various sex acts). Other women at the party remove their tops, revealing their bras. Two people's tongues intertwine. James and Maura kiss repeatedly.
The party, not surprisingly, gets increasingly out of control. Windows, doors and walls are smashed or shattered. Someone falls through the attic ceiling. A car runs into a tree that topples and crushes most of the house. A sinkhole spontaneously opens beneath the swimming pool, swallowing most of the backyard. (This is the sinkhole into which Haley falls.)
As a prelude to sex, Maura drips hot wax onto James' bare chest … and then drops a flaming candle onto his underwear-covered crotch, which catches fire. While trying to extinguish the flames, he falls onto a ballerina music box which penetrates his backside.
Maura tells the prospective owners of her parents' house that seven sets of twins were murdered there.
Crude or Profane Language
More than 50 f-words. Nearly 40 s-words. God's name is misused about 30 times (sometimes paired with "d--n). Jesus' name is taken in vain three or four times. A crude expression is attached to "holy Moses." "B--ch" and variations of "a--" are used about a dozen times each, while "d--n" and "h---" come in at half that count. Anatomical slang for male and female genitalia (not counting actual uses of the words penis and vagina) clocks in at more than a dozen uses, including one use of the c-word. Various obscene gestures are made repeatedly.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Alcohol of all kinds flows freely once the party gets going. We see people drinking shots; Kate sucks from a keg hose while doing a handstand. Maura and Kate both get drunk, as do most of the other guests. Kate drives while under the influence, heading to the liquor store to procure more booze. (She doesn't quite make it there.)
Desperate to buy pot, Maura and Kate talk to a dealer who has a case full of drugs. He lists them in rapid-fire fashion, including the likes of meth, MDMA, Adderall, coke, crack, pot, PCP, LSD, heroin, Molly, birth control pills, morning-after pills, morphine and drugs to make your "d--- hard" or "soft." The two ladies do buy weed, which Maura and James eventually smoke. They also snatch up a mixture of Molly and Adderall called "Cloud 10." Thinking it's Stevia, a friend then inhales the entire bag as a joke. (He gets hyper-manic.) Kate uses drugs to make "Space Cake" brownies.
Maura asks, "Does a mother drink at her kid's birthday party?" Kate answers affirmatively. Maura coaches Kate on how to keep people from choking on their vomit after they pass out from drinking too much. We see a drunk woman vomiting in a toilet.
Other Negative Elements
A pubic hair gag involves a dog eating and then vomiting up a bikini-wax strip. A painful scene pokes fun at Maura's mispronunciation of a Korean woman's name at a salon. There's talk of urination and defecation, excrement and a woman's face resembling a "fart."
Somebody puts several gallons of dark blue paint in the swimming pool's filtration system, with predictably destructive results.
Imagine if Saturday Night Live was freed of any public broadcast content constraints. Then go back a few years to when Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were still on the show. Finally, add a zany brainstorming session about two crazy sisters—one who's never really grown up, the other who's grown up "too much." Now press play and prepare to run away as fast as you can.
In other words, Sisters is a raunchy, movie-length SNL skit that gets old in about five minutes. Maybe faster than that, actually. And with every sick, sad reference to sexual anatomy Fey and Poehler make, it just drags out longer and longer.
Usually in dysfunctional family comedies like this one there's at least a modicum of a redemptive payoff somewhere. And I suppose that Kate's reconciliation with her daughter technically counts. Still, when these two sisters' parents tell them to just leave, you know the filmmakers aren't really concerned about crafting a tearjerker ending.
"We're so tired of you," Kate and Maura's parents spit out in frustration, surveying the wreckage of their home. It's a meanspirited, un-parental thing to say. But by the merciful end of Sisters, I knew exactly why they felt that way.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Amy Poehler as Maura Ellis; Tina Fey as Kate Ellis; Madison Davenport as Haley; Ike Barinholtz as James; Maya Rudolph as Brinda; James Brolin as Bucky Ellis; Dianne Wiest as Deana Ellis; John Cena as Pazuzu; John Leguizamo as Dave; Bobby Moynihan as Alex; Greta Lee as Hae-Won; Rachel Dratch as Kelly
Jason Moore ( Pitch Perfect)
December 18, 2015
March 15, 2016