Tina Fey’s 30 Rock Role Led To A Major Change On Sisters

22 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

In Sisters, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler create an awkward, inclusive intimacy.

“My older one is really sweet and really easy going and my little one is rough,” Fey told Ellen DeGeneres of her daughters, Alice, 10, and Penelope, 4, on Wednesday.Sisters sees Tina Fey, left, and Amy Poehler trying (unsuccessfully) to switch their usual roles — Fey plays the loose canon hoochie mama and Poehler plays the uptight one. The Sisters star joked of Penelope during her appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, saying, “When she is mad at you, she will just take you apart.” When DeGeneres asked if Fey used holiday presents to try to dissuade her daughter’s behavior, the actress admitted that she is cautious to bring the big man in red into it. “I struggle because I worry she will be on the naughty list,” she said, laughing. “There’s a lot of times where I feel she should be on the naughty list, but then if that happens then there will be hell to pay for Mommy. It isn’t inherently hilarious when Poehler, playing a nurse, tells a man with a music-box ballerina wedged up his ass that it’s unfortunately going to take a while for the device to wind down, because it’s “Swiss-made.” Or when Fey leers at a gardening neighbor that she’s looking for someone who’s capable of working on other people’s bushes.

Their second screen pairing, Sisters, is too much of a good thing, a flimsy premise with an implosion countdown of maybe 85 minutes, stretched a half-hour beyond that. One of the main problems with “Sisters” is that stars Fey and Poehler, while clearly having fun together, are not on the same page in terms of their performance choices.

Coal, you got nothing.’ ” “I remember it being a very clarifying experience when I was a kid,” she shared, adding, “Going to sit on Santa’s lap, it was just a trailer that was parked in the J.C. But all these bits work onscreen, because they’re all delivered with such straight-faced, innocent conviction, and because they follow a simple dynamic: they’re small parts of larger comic set pieces, all purposefully stumbling toward a peak of relentless, hilarious momentum. Poehler is heartfelt and realistic as overly caring and concerned nurse Maura, while Fey performs a sloppily conceived caricature of train wreck cougar party girl/single mom, Kate. Fey seems as if she’s in an “SNL” sketch, only halfway committed to the part, with a wink-wink, nudge-nudge air of irony, while Poehler seems like she’s actually in a movie. The sisters are summoned back to their hometown of Orlando because their parents, played by Dianne Wiest and James Brolin, have sold their cherished family home and need their adult children to pack up their high school bedrooms, filled with ’80s detritus.

Reluctant to let go of their old identities as high school party girls, and to stick it to the snobby new owners, the sisters decide to throw one last rager, for old time’s sake. He’s still deeply uncomfortable, she’s still trying to reassure him and failing, and that thing is still spinning in there, playing its tinkly little version of ‘Für Elise.’ This might actually go on for the rest of the movie.” It’s discomfort comedy drawn out to an excruciating degree until it bypasses awfulness and comes around to funny again — a common enough comedy tactic in the Judd Apatow Age. Toward the end of the party, their dad admonishes the group of assembled adults to “go home before I call your children,” and that wordplay seems to be the premise that launched the whole film — what happens when the middle-aged crowd parties like they’re in high school?

For Maura (Poehler), this amounts to a crisis because she wasn’t consulted, and as the kind of caretaker figure who masks deep insecurity and a hefty dose of self-righteousness behind attempts to help other people, she’s uncomfortable with the loss of control. Her teenage daughter Haley (Madison Davenport, fresh off a very similar but much more serious role in A Light Beneath Their Feet) is exasperated with Kate’s lack of responsibility, adding an extra layer of guilt to her unemployment. There are some funny lines peppered throughout, and Poehler and Fey are entertaining when they’re riffing together (though many of the best moments appear in the trailer). There are plenty of great comedic actors throughout, including Bobby Moynihan as a profoundly uncool friend who spirals into a hilariously manic drug haze.

So after wallowing in the horrifying cutesiness of their perfectly preserved shared childhood bedroom, Maura and Kate plan one last wild rager in the (already sold) house. They’re out to relive their teen glories, but they’re also saying a defiant goodbye to their past, and flipping the bird at Mom and Dad for having the audacity to live their own lives and make their own decisions.

The SNL and Second City alums’ longtime offscreen friendship informs their onscreen chemistry, and boosts their status as awards-presenter favorites and frequent cultural commentators. That feeling extends to Sisters, where their characters are frequently frustrated with each other’s considerable faults, but still so mutually giving and approving that they encourage each other into entertainingly awful behavior.

Cast: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Ike Barinholtz, Maya Rudolph, James Brolin, Dianne Wiest, John Leguizamo, Bobby Moynihan, John Cena, Greta Lee, Rachel Dratch Having a built-in support system leaves them free to play grotesques without fear of judgment: they can try on terrible dresses, harass that hapless neighbor, or pooch out their stomachs to rub them against each other in a public “tummy kiss” without embarrassment.

Like the similarly contentious but close relationships between Seth Rogen and his besties in Apatow movies, or between Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum in the Jump Street movies, it may not accurately reflect any real-life friendship that’s ever existed. But that’s part of what makes it absorbing: the fantasy of having an endlessly approving partner in crime, and all the freedom and self-confidence that comes with a trustworthy confidant.

In that sense, Sisters feels like a close descendant of Romy And Michele’s High School Reunion, where Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino play a similarly bonded-at-the-hip pair of ditzes facing a similar party where identity crisis underlines every other crisis. They’re also crasser, louder, and above all more sexual. (Among other things, Kate is convinced Maura needs to take advantage of her last chance to get laid in her childhood home, in her childhood bed, possibly with that gardening neighbor, played affably and with virtually no impact by The Mindy Project’s Ike Barinholtz.) Sisters never reaches Bridesmaids levels of raunch, and it’s admirably removed from that film’s fascination with bodily fluids and feces. Sisters packs in familiar comedy faces, especially women: Maya Rudolph gets the juiciest supporting part as a realtor desperate to crash Kate and Maura’s party, but Saturday Night Live’s Bobby Moynihan is a close second as the party guest who can’t stop cracking painfully awful jokes as he struggles for even the tiniest bit of validation from a crew that was already tired of him back in high school.

They give the central sisterhood room to breathe, and to dig themselves deeper and deeper into situations that just get funnier as they get more unlikely and more inescapable. There’s a heavy streak of melancholy running just beneath the surface of Sisters, as Kate and Maura ignore their problems, booze them away, or try to rewind to a simpler era. The film gives them enough room to develop past the rough outlines of “control freak” and “loser.” But like any Apatow movie, Sisters isn’t really about the lip service it pays to life lessons about growing up.

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