Endings are hard. Plenty of writers will tell you they're the hardest part of any story, and any movie lover can rattle off a dozen films with lousy endings, from memory.
So when a movie ends just right, it should be savored. The romantic comedy-drama Your Sister's Sister — new to DVD, Blu-ray and digital this week — concludes with two scenes so perfect that I scanned back and watched them again, just to admire it all. I was investedin this thing, and if the story hadn't ended properly, I would have had actual trouble sleeping.
It's the nicest thing I can think to say of the many nice things I'm about to say in regard to this funny, lovely film. Your Sister's Sister didn't get the theatrical release it deserved — it never did open in the Triangle — but hopefully it will find its audience on home video.
The story: Iris and Jack (Emily Blunt and Mark Duplass) are platonic best friends, each still in mourning a year after the death of Jack's brother, who was also Iris' ex-boyfriend.
Jack in particular is a mess, and after he unravels at a memorial service, Iris sends him off to her dad's vacation cottage to get his head together. When Jack arrives, however, he's surprised to find the cabin is already occupied by Iris' sister Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt). Hannah is also spiraling, having just broken off a seven-year relationship with her girlfriend.
Jack and Hannah bond over a bottle of tequila and wind up in bed together, despite Hannah's orientation and Jack's plumbing. (“I haven't ridden this bike in a while,” Hannah says.) These things happen when you trifle with the demon rum. But when Iris unexpectedly shows up the next morning, it's weirdsies for everyone involved.
A kind of fast-forward, slightly tweaked love triangle story plays out from here. Secrets are kept, then revealed. Scenes build to explore the complex relationships between the three — especially the sisters, who grew up spending their summers together in that cabin. Dialogue is crisp and funny, and the mix of comedy and drama feels entirely authentic.
Writer-director Lynn Shelton (Humpday) has such a sure hand. There's no wasted movement in the script, and when the stakes are suddenly raised, it's funny and heartbreaking at the same time. Emily Blunt is usually the most interesting element of any movie she's in, but here she's got equally committed colleagues in DeWitt and Duplass. Extras on the Blu-ray and DVD include two commentary tracks — one with director Shelton and the crew, another with Shelton and Duplass. The commentaries suggest extensive collaboration and improvisation on-set.
When director and performers lock in like this, a lot of good things can happen in 90 minutes. It's a little startling, really, how quickly and fully you come to care about these three. The movie could have ended a hundred different ways, and I was worried about 99 of them. But this is such a carefully calibrated story that I guess it's no surprise it sticks the landing. Highly recommended.
Also New This Week:
Director Billy Wilder's masterpiece Sunset Boulevard has finally been issued to Blu-ray in a beautifully restored HD edition with more than two hours of insider-Hollywood extras. In addition to photo galleries and a commentary track by Wilder biographer Ed Sikov, the disc has 14 separate featurettes covering various aspects of the production and historical context. Could be a nice gift idea for that movie geek on your list.
Rashomon, director Akira Kurosawa's multivalent crime drama, has also been reissued to Blu-ray by the Criterion Collection, with the usual suite of extras.
Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) takes over crimefighting duties from Toby Maquire in this summer's blockbuster reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man.
Not coincidentally, the fanboy doc With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story also hits DVD this week, with details on the life and times of the Spider-Man creator and comic book godfather. Sam Jackson, Patrick Stewart and Kevin Smith provide celebrity testimonials.
Last year's holiday kids movie from Britain's Aardman Animations, Arthur Christmas, rotates back into play on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D.
Plus: Paranormal horror with The Pact, holiday nostalgia with The Muppet Christmas Carol 20th Anniversary Edition, and Hollywood hijinks with HBO's Entourage: The Complete Series.