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MOVIE REVIEW : 'Sister Sister' Is Silly Silly

February 05, 1988|KEVIN THOMAS | Times Staff Writer

"Sister Sister" (citywide) is such a silly and contrived piece of Southern Gothic nonsense that it deserves to end up on the lower half of the bill with that other piece of bayou bilge, "Shy People."

Whatever are Eric Stoltz, the young star of "Mask," the lovely Jennifer Jason Leigh and the always-splendid Judith Ivey doing in such a hopelessly trite tale of psychological suspense?

Ivey presides over a white-columned ancestral Louisiana plantation that she has turned into a bed and breakfast inn. For years she has been putting off marrying the nice local sheriff (Dennis Lipscomb) and fretting over her younger sister (Leigh), who has done a stint in a mental institution and seemingly remains delicately balanced.

When a new guest (Stoltz) arrives, Ivey begins to seem deranged as she becomes consumed with fear that a romance might blossom between him and Leigh. To be sure, there's a Terrible Secret the sisters share and also an obligatory final reel surprise twist. The revelations are entirely mechanical, for all these people are too lifeless to engage us in the first place. The fault lies not with the actors, who clearly try hard, but with writer Bill Condon and his colleagues Joel Cohen and Ginny Cerrella.

Condon, who is also making his feature directorial debut, compounds a lack of originality by taking his material too seriously.

The only real life in "Sister Sister" (rated R for sex and violence) is supplied all too briefly by veteran actress Anne Pitoniak, who was unforgettable in the stage version of " 'night, Mother" and is here a wonderfully brassy, good-natured New Jersey widow who after one night at the creepy plantation sensibly gets herself, her daughter and her son-in-law to the nearest Holiday Inn. When Ivey, at the end of the film, says, "Thank God, it's over," there's an almost audible "Amen".

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