Amy Poehler and Tina Fey star as ‘Sisters’ in a raucous, predictable comedy …
Amy Poehler on Her Badass Lady #Squad, From New Pal Hillary Clinton to BFF Tina Fey.
Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have such great chemistry together it’s almost as if they’re sisters from different misters. The Golden Globe-winning actress/writer/producer opens up about new movie ‘Sisters,’ women in comedy, and whether Leslie Knope ever made it to the White House. “I have a really big squad—but the problem is I’m a little old, so I forget who’s in it,” quipped Amy Poehler to The Daily Beast, mulling recent reports that she’s a bona fide member of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s official #squad.
It isn’t necessarily easy to make funny people laugh, but comedian Amy Poehler says Paula Pell can do it: “She just has this very specific way of telling a joke and being in on the joke,” says Poehler.Numbing, mediocre, vulgar and inane, “Sisters” combines scattershot comedy, trite sentimentality and patronizing life lessons, while throwing 20 jokes a minute at the screen. Pell has serious comedy cred: She’s been a writer on Saturday Night Live for more than 20 years and has worked on 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation and Judd Apatow movies. We still don’t know whose name is supposed to come first, but rest assured, America’s leading ladies of comedy — last seen poking fun at a room of well-dressed Hollywood types at January’s Golden Globe Awards (Fey and Poehler’s third consecutive time hosting the ceremony) — are very, very good together. The film may succeed best at ending the screen partnership of former “Saturday Night Live” best friends and colleagues Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, who co-starred in “Baby Mama” (2008) and appeared in “Mean Girls” (2004) and “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” (2013).
Though it may look like a lot of fun, SNL is not an easy gig. “You’re under the gun at all times because it’s live TV,” says Pell. “A lot of time between dress and air you’re having to come with an entire ending to your sketch that gets an even better, bigger laugh which is terrifying. … Not to be confused with the 1973 Hitchcockian thriller by Brian De Palma, this “Sisters” features Poehler and Fey as siblings of a certain age, Maura and Kate Ellis respectively. We are Amy.” The duo find a fertile platform for their snappy natural chemistry in the Universal comedy about two grown siblings—Katie, an irresponsible single mother (Fey) and Maura, the divorced type A smotherer (Poehler)—who throw one last rager in their childhood home before their parents sell the place. People are filing into the audience and you’re writing a new joke for the end of it.” But decades of practice have made Pell a pro. “She has a very toned joke-writing muscle,” says Tina Fey. “She can just go and go and go. Directed by Pitch Perfect’s Jason Moore and scripted by SNL veteran Paula Pell, Sisters is the latest onscreen Fey-Poehler collab after their historic SNL/Weekend Update run, 2008’s Baby Mama (in which Poehler played the loose cannon), and their now-iconic reign as Hollywood’s best and ballsiest celebrity awards show emcee tag team.
Kate is a loser, who has quit yet another hair stylist job and works from her home bathroom where she inadvertently removes a guy’s eyebrows (hilarious?). When their parents (Dianne Wiest and James Brolin) decide to simplify their life, sell the family home and move into a senior’s complex in Orlando, the girls are called home to clean out their rooms. Neither Poehler nor Fey grew up with sisters, but they bounce off each other as if they were thanks to their close-knit bond and shared knack for irreverent, unapologetic humor. The two first met in their early 20s in Chicago’s comedy scene, graduating from the ImprovOlympics and Second City to comedy’s biggest televised launching pad. “We’ve known each other for so long, we really feel related,” said Poehler of their 22-year friendship. “We don’t have sisters of our own, and I like the idea that sisters and mothers and friends will go see [the movie] together—it’s this idea that when you’re connected with family there’s a complication that isn’t around when you’re with someone you’ve chosen as your sister.
Ex-SNLers Maya Rudolph, Kate McKinnon, Rachel Dratch and Bobby Moynihan all make appearances in a movie that has about as much story as the average SNL skit. So it’s fun to play the complication of that and see what it would feel like.” Fey revealed recently that they’d originally been cast in each other’s roles before she deemed Poehler a better fit for late-blooming Maura. “I put my producer hat on, and I thought when you have a part for someone where they’re supposed to be tightly wound in the beginning and then go crazy, you cast the person who is better at going crazy. Their aging parents Bucky (James Brolin) and Deana (Dianne Wiest), who, we are reminded, are sexually active, want to sell in order to “purge” and start over.
Reading their high school diaries in a shared bedroom still appointed in the ‘80s teen dream decor of their youth, the sisters trapped in their own respective pits of arrested development realize that their glory days were maybe not so glorious after all. The sisters, meanwhile, think it is a brilliant idea to have a last blowout party at their parents’ house with their 40-something high school friends and “frenemies” before the new buyers, the Geernts (an amusing Santino Fontana and Britt Lower), move in. But while Fey’s Katie is faced with assuming the adult responsibilities she’d always shirked, Poehler’s Maura gets to grow up by letting loose. “What was fun in the film was that my character Maura goes through a metamorphosis,” Poehler mused. “She starts thinking that her days are long behind her and she’s missed her chance, but as the party rages, she does too. On the other hand Moynihan goes full bore into a part Chris Farley might have played and while the movie is more fun when the cast run out of control, it’s Fey and Poehler’s rare quiet moments that humanize the story. I got the gift of getting to play both, which was really fun.” Unlike Maura and Katie and just about every pair of siblings that have ever existed, Poehler says she and Fey have never had a bitter sisterly fight in real life.
Poehler waxes celebratory about their longstanding friendship. “My mom said it was very important to have people in your life who knew you when, and Tina and I were diamonds in the rough and knew each other well before we really had any sense of what we wanted to do,” she said. “We kind of were in the trenches together, and you remember those times and those people very well. I’m very outgoing and I have a very strong sense of humor. “Some children challenge themselves to maybe run a marathon or something,” she says. “I challenged myself to stay up for two days and make cinnamon toast and watch the Jerry Lewis Telethon and laugh and cry.” Whether you’re the over-achiever or the screw-up in high school, you bring some of that into adulthood, Pell says. “And then they get to be about the age that Tina and Amy are in the movie and they realize that they need to kind of drop the story and rewrite it.” Pell says she tells young comedy writers to mine the specifics of their own lives for material — whether its rock tumblers, or a sister who’s nothing like you. You treasure those friendships because they span really important times of your life.” Have the two ever wing-womaned for one another, as Katie does with unabashedly florid sexual innuendo to her sis’s love interest-neighbor (Ike Barinholtz)? “Tina pretty much met her boyfriend now husband in Chicago, so she’s never really been single for me to wing,” laughed Poehler. “But we’ve gone out for wings.
Actually, Maura is completely against the idea, and the parents (all shacked up in the coolest old folks home on the planet) would have a fit if they knew what Kate had planned, but sure listen, we’ve got a plot to move forward with. It’s at this point of the film that Sisters inevitably descends down the ‘craziest night of our lives/one last blowout’ route, of which there are five important rules to follow. Maya Rudolph sneers in suburban chic as Fey’s former high school nemesis, while fellow SNLer Rachel Dratch plays a perennially deflated ex-classmate. Kate McKinnon, Samantha Bee, and Greta Lee also turn up in striking supporting roles. “There are so many incredibly talented, funny women right now in their 30s and 40s, including women in Sisters like Maya Rudolph and Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig and Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Leslie Jones and Schumer—all of these people that are creating all this stuff that’s exciting to see,” said Poehler, who also executive produced the film. Her company also produces female-driven series Difficult People for Hulu and has two female-led comedy features in development at Universal. “I just like working with women,” Poehler explained. “From a very selfish perspective I just like how they work.
By the time Poehler’s young love interest James (Ike Barinholtz) gets a musical ballerina stuck where “the moon don’t shine,” I was ready to pirouette to the exit. And demand is bigger than before, even though I’ve known over the past twenty years so many talented people who have been ready to express themselves in that way. Kate agrees to stay off the sauce (it’s a role-reversal movie, too) and Maura gets hot, awkward and heavy with the handyman across the road (Ike Barinholtz). It’s pretty cool to feel that and in some very small way to be a part of that.” Her wariness of social media and “other poisonous bullshit on the Internet” partially led to the creation of Smart Girls, which “has less to do with the entertainment world and more to do with how does one figure out who they are in life, what are you interested in and what are you curious about, and kind of celebrating the person who’s interested in things they’re interested in,” she said. “It’s just like anything: What’s wonderful about the Internet and social media is feeling connected, and less alone, and part of a bigger thing.
The thing is, despite its ridiculous running length (two-hour comedies are all the rage now, apparently) and paper-thin premise, Sisters — though wobbly on occasion — somehow stays on track. Every time I get frustrated or stuck, I turn to young people because I think their impatience and their dedication and their quote-unquote optimism is super inspiring and creative.
Fans, of course, are hoping to see the pair reprise their Sarah Palin-Hillary Clinton one-two punch—but Poehler generously defers to current star McKinnon, her successor in Hillarydom. “Every election is different,” she said. “I’m really interested to see how this one starts to unfold—it’s starting to, and it’s its usual combination of interesting and bizarre—and frankly, excited to see what Kate McKinnon does with her stuff on SNL. True, there’s a bit too much improv involved, and you can see the ending a mile off, but hey, that party sure does look deadly, and Fey and Poehler are in good company, with plenty of familiar names pulling funny faces and temper tantrums. John Leguizamo (an old schoolmate) piles on the sleaze, Maya Rudolph (the bitch next door) has a complete breakdown, and even James Brolin’s comical turn as the sisters’ old man is on target.
I don’t know.” “I’d like to think that you think that,” she teased. “It’s more important that one would think that and believe that to be the case. That would be exciting.” She paused dramatically, setting up one last zinger like a pro. “Let’s be honest, we’re all going to be ruled by robots in about… six years.
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