Movie Review

The Other Sister

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements involving sex related material

Reviewed by: Debbie Blanton
CONTRIBUTOR

Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Older Teen to Adult
Genre:
Romantic Comedy
Length:
129 min.

Starring: Juliette Lewis, Diane Keaton, Tom Skerritt, Giovanni Ribisi, Poppy Montgomery, Sarah Paulson, Linda Thorson / Director: Garry Marshall

This was a very uplifting and refreshing romantic comedy. To be honest, it was better than I thought it was going to be. I went in expecting a good movie and got a GREAT one instead. I had so much fun at this movie because it offered a little bit of everything. In some ways it was a serious movie and yet it had some very funny moments intertwined.

The story starts with 24-year-old Carla Tate (Juliette Lewis) who is a slightly mentally challenged young woman who comes home after many years of special education at a private boarding school. This strong young woman has successfully transcended many of her limitations—except her overprotective mother, Elizabeth (Diane Keaton). Carla’s need for personal fulfillment begins to express itself in ways her mother is unable to accept. When she falls in love for the first time, Carla defies her mother in order to prove that despite all appearances she has the capacity to be a responsible adult, worthy of loving and being loved. Carla and her boyfriend Danny (Giovanni Ribisi) set out together to find answers to some of life’s toughest challenges, and to prove that sometimes, an ordinary life can be an extraordinary achievement.

Surprisingly, this movie only contained 2 uses of mild language (neither were uses of God’s name in vain). There was no actual nudity (except for a picture that is briefly shown from the book The Joy of Sex) and there are 2 brief scenes which show 2 different women in their underwear. There are also a couple of discussions about sex, one of which is between Carla and her mother where Carla gives details about what she was taught in school about what sex is. Carla and her boyfriend openly discuss sex as well and even discuss use of protection. Coming from these 2 characters I didn’t find any offense in the discussions on sex because of their “innocence” about it and the fact that they were discussing with each other and learning about it. There IS, however, implied sex between these 2 characters. Carla has a sister who is gay and there is a very brief scene that shows her sister’s girlfriend asleep in her bed.

This movie was very entertaining to watch. I found myself laughing all through the movie as well as crying during some of the serious moments. I personally recommend this movie because I believe it can give us all a better appreciation for those who are mentally challenged and teach us how to help them and not place unnecessary judgments on their abilities to function in this world. However, do take caution due to the sexual situations presented in the film.

Year of Release—1999

Viewer Comments
I agreed with the moral reservations expressed by the reviewer and the other commentators. I took my 14 year old daughter, who has Down syndrome, and two other young women who have mental disabilities to see the movie. I was expecting something really dreadful, but was very pleasantly surprised. I loved the portrayals of the two young people, especially the boy. It’s a fantasy, really, a little love story about two young people in love. We had a blast, and one of my young friends broke up the movie house during the “what do you know and how did you learn it?” discussion between the mom and Carla. Lynne burst out with “Yes! You just say STOP!” Our little group became a focus along with the screen, but everyone seemed happy about that. And yes, take your Kleenex.
—Judy Horton, age 56
All in all, “The Other Sister” was an excellent movie. Although we could have gone without seeing the character’s sister in bed with her “girlfriend,” and the implied sexual activity between two unmarried people (Carla and her boyfriend), I found this movie to be both funny and entertaining. I wasn’t sure how much I’d like it but I thought the actors' portrayal of the retarded people was very good. I would definitely recommend this movie to any of my friends who would want to know about it.
—Natalie, age 15
I really enjoyed this movie. It was touching and humorous at the same time and made me view people with mental disabilities in a whole new way. I thought that the retarded characters were portrayed in an accurant and compassionate way. There were however some unecessary parts to this movie. The homosexual sister for one. There was no reason why that needed to be included in this movie. It didn’t do anything to further the story. I also didn’t like the implied sexual experience between Danny and Carla. It might give younger teens the wrong idea or make them feel like there is something wrong with them if they choose to wait for marriage to become sexually active. I was very pleased with the fact that there was very little profanity in this movie. I throughly enjoyed this movie and would recommend it to others. The good far outweighs the bad in this movie. But the offensive aspects of this film need to be addressed as well and shouldn’t just be ignored or overlooked.
—Lisa, age 22
It was a emotional roller coaster in that my Daughter and her husband worked with persons with Down’s Syndrome and and other disability adults. I, a man 47, sobbed through 60% of the movie out of happiness and joy for the protrayed characters. However, my disgust was for the closet acceptance of before marriage sex of any kind as conditionally allowed. Also the acceptance of homosexuality as a legitimate life style. 1/3rd of the movie was forcing you to accept immoraliity of the “Hollywood okay” style.
—Mark Gelbert, age 47
I totally agree with the review above. I am not sorry I went to see this movie. Although sex was discussed, it was in an innocent way, and no vulgarity intended. I was disgusted with the homosexual reference, and the fact that the mother indicated that she had supported homosexual causes (but still could not deal with her daughter’s homosexuality.) The father played a strong figure, I think, in the sense that although his wife clearly wore the pants in the family, he stood up for his daughter throughout the movie. The theme of the movie was not lost. It was a poignant story of how mentally challenged people have feelings and that they have the same basicneeds and wants as other people. The movie was a “tearjerker”. Take plenty of kleenex.
—Grace, age 28
All in all, “The Other Sister” was an excellent movie. Although we could have gone without seeing the character’s sister in bed with her “girlfriend”, and the implied sexual activity between two unmarried people (Carla and her boyfriend), I found this movie to be both funny andentertaining. I wasn’t sure how much I’d like it but I thought the actors' portrayal of the retarded people was very good. I would definitely recommend this movie to any of my friends who would want to know about it.
—Natalie, age 15
I would agree with the review for the most part. However, I would advise viewers to be aware of the very important subplot involving the gay sister. While initially a minor detail in the movie, the fact of the sister’s gayness is elevated to more importance as the movie progresses. In the end, I felt the director was linking the acceptance of the gay sister with acceptance of the retarded sister. The message I got was: “See how terrible it is to not accept a retarded person just the way they are? Well, it’s just as terrible to not accept a gay person just as they are. There’s no difference.” As a Christian, I happen to believe there IS a big difference. Yes, the movie is uplifting in many ways, but viewers should not be oblivious to the subtle worldview that is presented through the quiet subplot of the gay sister. Ask yourselves this simple question: “Did the sister HAVE to be gay in order to further the plot of the movie? If not, why, the, is this aspect included? What are the motivations of the director and producer? What are they trying to communicate to me?”
—Stephen Rountree, age 31
Yes, I agree, this movie was on the whole quite positive—at least for Hollywood. There were excellent performances, and overall a fine movie. There was, however, far too much information on sex for a 10, 11,12, 13 or even 14 year old. I brought my 10-year-old daughter and wished I hadn't. Sex is more than mentioned, it is a bit of a focus in the relationship between the two main characters. Unfortunately, this movie in some regards holds too closely to the Hollywood stereotype of sex having to be the be-all and end-all of a romantic relationship. Still, older teenagers who already know about “doing it” will benefit from the film’s other, more positive messages.
—Richard F. Schmitz, age 44
This movie was better than I expected. I thought it was going to be boring but I saw it anyway and it was pretty good. I didn’t think that they needed to have sex though. I think that that part could have been left out but it was pretty good anyway.
—Erin, age 15