The Boston Independent Film Festival, Day 5

I’m a bit late in doing so, but I wanted to weigh in on the last two films I caught at IFF Boston last weekend, both of which feature the formidable talents of Rosemarie DeWitt (pictured above), perhaps best known for her recurring role on the first season of AMC’s Mad Men and as the title character in Jonathan Demme’s Rachel Getting Married (2008).  In Lynn Shelton’s breezy, gentle comedy Your Sister’s Sister (set to open nationally in June), DeWitt and Emily Blunt play a pair of half-sisters, both of whom find themselves emotionally and sexually entangled—though in quite different ways—with a grief-stricken Mark Duplass.  In Ry Russo Young’s Nobody Walks, a pricklier (though altogether less satisfying) dramedy about betrayal and responsibility, she appears as a psychiatrist trying both to fend off the advances of a predatory client and to monitor the sexual sparks flying between her husband (John Krasinski) and their houseguest (Olivia Thirlby), an experimental filmmaker. 

While it has its moments (there’s a somewhat compelling subplot involving DeWitt’s adolescent daughter and her salacious Italian tutor), Nobody Walks is a slight film, the kind of thing that is likely doomed to languish in Sundance-Channel limbo without ever getting a full release—though its co-screenwriting credit for Lena Dunham may help its chances.  Your Sister’s Sister, on the other hand, is the kind of indie comedy that could end up being huge: at the screening I attended, it played beautifully to a packed house, and it sports three solid performances by actors whose stocks all seem to be on the rise.  (Director Lynn Shelton, whose previous films include Humpday [2008], is also getting much advance buzz for the film, including a profile this week in the New York Times.)  Your Sister’s Sister is such a generous and funny film that I doubt most audiences will be bothered by its imperfections—or, more accurately, its too-perfect series of coincidences, revelations, and resolutions.  Poised halfway between the listlessness of mumblecore and the snarky big-heartedness of the new mainstream romantic comedies ushered in by Apatow and co., it promises to make Shelton a big name.  But what one really comes away with after seeing the film (both films, really) is the near-genius of Rosemarie DeWitt, who manages somehow to be affable, beautiful, conflicted, and sharp all at the same time.  She’s the rare kind of actor whose intelligence never seems to be compromised.  She reminds me of Holly Hunter, not only in her looks but also in the balance she strikes between warmth and solidity, and in the effortlessness with which she can move between comedy and drama, often within the same scene (even within the same line of dialogue).  With another, blander cast, Your Sister’s Sister might very well have sunk, but between DeWitt, Blunt, and Duplass there’s not a weak link.      

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