My Sister’s Keeper keeps you smiling through tears

June 23, 2009
By javajournalist GOLD, Leawood, Kansas
javajournalist GOLD, Leawood, Kansas
11 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Entertainment is often a feel-good industry. There’s a reason that Jack Black and Will Ferrell movies tend to make major bucks. But even though my eyes didn’t have time to dry at any point during My Sister’s Keeper, it was never depressing. The tears came mostly because it was moving, not sad.

For those who haven’t read the book by Jodi Picoult, My Sister’s Keeper is the story of the Fitzgeralds, a family taken over by the oldest daughter, Kate’s, battle with leukemia. Every moment of the mother’s (Cameron Diaz) life is focused on Kate, and her two other children, Anna (Abigail Breslin) and Jesse, sometimes fall on the back burner. The story starts at the point when Anna, who was conceived to be a bone marrow match for Kate, sues her parents for the right to decide if she’ll undergo surgery for her sister. This throws the family into turmoil as they fight in court and in the hospital for Kate’s life. Deciding what is best for everyone, though, turns out to be the hardest thing of all.
A box of Kleenex is a good prop to take to this movie, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a downer. As sad as it is to watch the Fitzgeralds’ distress, the movie somehow manages to work in bits of humor even at the most difficult parts. Even though Anna is the main focus of the movie, Kate’s brave and playful personality make her shine as someone with impressive character, rather than just a poor dying girl. All of the characters seem real, shown in a way that makes them not always likeable but always relatable and true.
The casting directors obviously knew what they were doing here. Cameron Diaz, for all her crazy-girl and slapstick roles, does an impressive job of playing a woman who is devoted and loving and yet so unwilling to let her daughter go that she seems single-minded and controlling. Abigail Breslin is as cute as ever, and she manages to make Anna both mature and vulnerable. Kate’s luminous character is played beautifully by the relatively unknown Sofia Vassilieva.

For the most part, the movie My Sister’s Keeper sticks pretty close to the book. It flips back and forth from Anna’s memories of Kate to the present, which might be a bit hard to follow if you haven’t read the book. The one big change is the end, which is changed totally for the movie. Even though I personally liked the book’s ending better, the movie did a beautiful job with a different one. To figure out exactly what that means, of course, you’ll just have to see the movie and read the book (both of which are worth it).
The only problem is that parts are left out about the lives of Jesse and Campbell Alexander (Anna’s lawyer). No doubt there just wasn’t enough time to delve into these subplots in the movie. Campbell’s story is merely interesting, but Jesse’s is too important to be left out; it shows the true effect of Kate’s disease on the Fitzgerald family. There’s a lot more to it than just hospital stays and sadness for her suffering. But still the movie did a great job on both basics—casting, filming, length, etc.—and feeling. To me the measure of how good a movie is comes from how much it makes you think, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head.

The author's comments:
As part of a local teen TV show, I got to see this movie for screening before it came out. It would have been completely worth the $10 movie ticket, but I was glad to get to screen anyway. I would like to be a tough critic, but I couldn't find a lot to criticize about this movie. The book was fantastic, too, and has a bit more time to explain all of the characters, so I would highly recommend reading it, too. Enjoy!

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