[Screen It]


(1999) (Juliette Lewis, Diane Keaton) (PG-13)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Moderate None Moderate None Minor
Mild None None None Minor
Smoking Tense Family
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Romantic Comedy: A slightly retarded young woman must contend with her overly protective mother while trying to become independent and lead her own life.
Carla Tate (JULIETTE LEWIS) is a slightly retarded 24-year-old woman who's just returned home after graduating from a special education boarding school. While her sisters Heather (Sarah Paulson), who's a lesbian, and Caroline (Poppy Montgomery), who's about to be married, quickly accept her back home, her parents Elizabeth (DIANE KEATON) and Radley (TOM SKERRITT) can't agree how upon her future should unfold, particularly since Elizabeth is cautiously overprotective.

Nonetheless, and having successfully transcended many of her limitations, Carla decides that she wants to attend a regular school, and after initially hesitating, her parents agree. There, she meets another mentally challenged young man, Daniel (GIOVANNI RIBISI), and the two immediately become friends, eventually leading to an awkward first romance between the two.

As Carla continues to explore her newfound independence, she must constantly deal with her mother's overbearing protectiveness, as well as own her feelings toward Daniel and others' reactions to their love.

Some younger teens may be drawn to the syrupy sweet romance, but unless they're fans of someone in the cast, it's not highly likely that other kids will be drawn to this.
For thematic elements involving sex related material.
  • JULIETTE LEWIS plays a 24-year-old, slight retarded young woman who wants to gain and then explore her independence. As such, she transcends many of the boundaries confronting her, although some may be bothered by her including losing her virginity among them.
  • GIOVANNI RIBISI plays another somewhat retarded character who also tries to be independent despite having an uncaring father. He gets drunk in several scenes, and is eager to bed Carla and does so because he thinks that's what two people in love do.
  • DIANE KEATON plays Carla's overprotective mother who feels somewhat guilty about having sent her off to a special education school and thus wants to protect her now. In doing so, however, she stymies Carla's efforts to explore her own independence.
  • TOM SKERRITT plays Carla's sympathetic father and former alcoholic who supports her while dealing with his wife's domineering overprotectiveness.


    OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
    While audiences like to watch movie characters who are unlike themselves, the same doesn't always apply -- as in real life -- regarding such characters who face mental challenges. For whatever reason, many people are uncomfortable around the "mentally retarded" and only like to see them, again as in real life, or here, in the movies, as something akin to being "freaks of nature."

    By that we mean highly stylized characters such as the "idiot savants" Raymond Babbitt (played by Dustin Hoffman in "Rainman") and David Helfgott (Geoffrey Rush in "Shine") or the simpleminded but murderous Karl Childers in "Sling Blade" so brilliantly played by Billy Bob Thornton. As such, the characters are intriguing or exciting simply because they're atypical and unpredictable.

    That's the beauty, however, of the way the characters in "The Other Sister" are presented. They're not talented prodigies, they can't solve complex mathematical problems in their heads faster than a computer, and they don't have any homicidal tendencies.

    Well, you may now be asking yourself "What exactly do they do that makes them worth watching?" I'll tell you -- they try to lead as normal a life as possible and end up falling in love while doing so. Exciting? Hardly. Sweet and charming? You bet.

    In a film that neither paints such characters as victims nor panders to their special needs, Juliette Lewis ("Cape Fear," "Natural Born Killers") and Giovanni Ribisi ("Saving Private Ryan," "The Postman") deliver completely believable and charming performances that should win over all but the most hardened of cynics.

    The overall presentation, however, leaves a bit more to be desired. As presented and running for a bit more than two hours, the film feels as if it prematurely left the editing booth before the final cuts were made. Not only is the film way too long, but it often comes across as extremely haphazard with many scenes seeming too random, unattached to the greater picture and/or orphaned midstream.

    In addition, writer/director Garry Marshall ("Pretty Woman," "Beaches") and co-writer Bob Brunner ("Exit To Eden") don't hold back from laying down a thick layer of cliches, overall predictability, and heart-tugging scenes that are a bit too painfully obvious to pull off their much needed natural-feeling effect.

    In addition, the supporting characters are either underdeveloped (such as Hector Elizondo from TV's "Chicago Hope" as Danny's confidant as well as the two actresses playing Carla's sisters that includes an out-of-the-blue lesbian subplot) and/or too stereotypically written.

    As such, three-time Oscar nominee Diane Keaton ("Marvin's Room," and a victory for "Annie Hall") can't transcend her near one-note overly protective mother character (saddled with artificially feeling mother/daughter conflict scenes), while Tom Skerritt ("Contact," "Steel Magnolias") is left with little to do as the former alcoholic turned nothing more than sympathetic father.

    It's those moments between Lewis and Ribisi's characters, however, where the film really works and nearly gives the audience enough reason to forgive and/or overlook the film's other flaws and weaknesses.

    While one of the audience's favorite moments will no doubt be when the two innocently and somewhat clinically peruse a "Joy of Sex" manual (which raises the unanswered question of how the two would ever have known about or attained such a book without dying of embarrassment), most of their other moments together are just as equally touching and/or amusing. Both performers are easy to believe in their deliveries, with Lewis doing an exceptional job.

    It's just too bad that the rest of the film isn't up to the same caliber, although Marshall's previous work on "Exit to Eden" and the disastrous "Dear God" proved that the enjoyable "Pretty Woman" may have been something of a lark. Good because it doesn't pander, make fun of, or showcase its "challenged" characters as special or too cute, the film could have been much better had as much "hands off" treatment been applied to the rest of it. As such, we give "The Other Sister" a 4.5 out of 10.

    The following is a brief summary of the content found in this PG-13 rated film. An implied sexual encounter occurs between the two central characters, as well as other non-explicit, sexually related talk (which includes their use and discussion of a sex manual).

    One of those characters is drunk in two scenes, and a great deal of tense family scenes occur with some parent-child and parent-parent arguments and yelling. Thematic issues regarding the mentally challenged and how others react to them are also present.

    Beyond that, however, most of the remaining categories have little or no major objectionable content. As always, however, should you still be concerned with the film's appropriateness for you or someone in your home, you may want to take a closer look at what's been listed.

  • We see a flashback where Radley has a drink and we later learn that he had something of a drinking problem back then, but hasn't had a drink in many years since.
  • The family has wine with dinner.
  • People have beer/liquor in a bar/restaurant that Daniel and Carla frequent, and in a later scene people have shots of liquor.
  • The family has wine with Thanksgiving dinner.
  • Upset that his father is pulling his financial plug, Daniel gets drunk and we see him that way, walking down the street and carrying a bottle of wine. He later says that he loves to drink because it makes him feel good and/or brave.
  • Caroline and her fiancÚ drink wine.
  • Daniel gets a drink at a party (that's 110 proof), and goes back for a refill before drunkenly addressing the party (where others drink wine).
  • Carla and her sisters have wine at Caroline's bachelorette party.
  • People have champagne and wine at a wedding reception.
  • None.
  • Some may see Elizabeth's domineering overprotectiveness toward Carla as having some of both.
  • We see a flashback of some young kids laughing at Carla and calling her stupid.
  • Some guys at Carla's new school aggressively come on to her (ie. Heavy duty flirting that she obviously doesn't appreciate).
  • Some college-aged students call Daniel a "retard" and he later comments that someone put gum in his bike helmet.
  • A cosmetic counter woman only applies makeup to half of Carla's face, thus forcing her to go home with that odd look.
  • Although we never see the man, Daniel's father has both for deciding to stop paying for Daniel's apartment (because he failed his class) and for hanging up on Daniel in the middle of their telephone call.
  • None.
  • Rifles: Carried by the color guard accompanying a marching band.
  • Phrases: "Stupid" and "Retard" (what others call Carla and Daniel), and "Shut the hell up."
  • Carla naturally burps in her apartment, and once she realizes there's nobody there to have heard her (for the first time in her life), she burps again.
  • A young man does a "body shot" where he licks salt from a woman's belly before drinking a shot of liquor.
  • Daniel hitchhikes across part of the country to get back to Carla.
  • None.
  • None.
  • None.
  • At least 2 hells, 1 damn, and 2 uses of "God" and 1 use each of "My God," "For God's sakes" and "Oh my God" as exclamations.
  • Carla asks her sister and fiancÚ "did you two do it yet?" prompting her mother to say that sex is something that's talked about in private. Carla then says that her teacher said that two people "do it" when they're in love.
  • We see Carla in her large underwear, as well as Heather in her bra who shows some cleavage (and begins to take off the bra as she walks out of the shot).
  • Another college-age student seductively talks to her male instructor in front of Carla, asking if she could get a "private lesson," all while teasingly pulling down the waistband of her pants to better expose her bare midriff (Carla later imitates this to herself in a mirror).
  • After her mother starts talking about having guys over to Carla's apartment, Carla asks if this is her sex talk, and Elizabeth says yes. She then questions whether Carla knows what "doing it" means, and Carla responds that some people call it "coitus" and then uses the terms "penis" and "vulva." She then goes on to mention "semen" and says that there are several billion sperm in "one shot."
  • As Heather talks on the phone, we see another woman in her bed rolling over. We then learn that she's a lesbian, but don't see any activity (although there's some later talk about her mother not accepting that part of her life).
  • A young man does a "body shot" where he licks salt from a woman's belly before drinking a shot of liquor.
  • After they kiss, Carla says that strange things are happening in her body, and Daniel says that the same is happening to him. The comment "I feel like we should be doing something else" is made, and Daniel says that the characters in "The Graduate" "did it." Carla then asks him, "Did you ever....? He embarrassedly laughs and says "Sort of" and then goes to explain that some older guys paid for a girl to be with him, but that he "finished" before he was supposed to and that you have to be a guy to understand that.
  • We then see Carla looking through the "New Joy of Sex" book and briefly see a sketch of a couple involved in some sort of sexual activity, but nothing explicit is shown. She then says that they can try what's described on certain pages, but rules out the activity listed on other pages. He then says that what's described on another page "looks pretty good." She looks at it, and then asks him what he weighs (during this we see other glimpses of more sketches, but again nothing that's explicit).
  • He then asks if she's ready to do it, and says that he has protection (we see several condoms), and that some glow in the dark and that they can practice on a banana (they don't). He then asks again if she's ready, because he's ready, but she eventually tells him that she'd rather wait until a holiday when it would be more special (all of the above is played out in an awkward and somewhat uninformed innocense of what they're discussing).
  • Later and now on a holiday, Carla questions who made up sex in the first place and Daniel responds that he thinks it was Madonna. We then see them awkwardly undressing in separate rooms (he down to his boxers, she down to her large underwear and a bra) and it's then implied that they have sex.
  • As Daniel walks down the street drunk, he spots a couple and says, "I know what you guys are going to do tonight."
  • Later, and also drunk, Daniel addresses a party and says that he and Carla love each other so much "that last Thanksgiving we did it...and it was so beautiful."
  • At Caroline's subdued bachelorette party (with just Carla and her sisters), Carla states that she doesn't want to continue playing "pin the penis on the naked guy" (and on the bed we see a game sheet that has several cartoon penises on it).
  • A miscellaneous character smokes on the street, while we see Anne Bancroft smoke in a scene from "The Graduate."
  • Elizabeth and Bradley have several fights regarding how to deal with Carla (in the present and in a flashback), and Elizabeth and Carla fight over the same matter.
  • Because of that, Carla runs away from home and returns to her old school.
  • Although we never see the man, Daniel's father pulls his financial support from his son (telling him he'll have to go back and live with his mother) and then hangs up on him in the middle of their telephone call.
  • People who face mental challenges, and how they're treated by their families and by others.
  • In a flashback we see some young kids laughing at Carla who then proceeds to push one of the boys, causing him to fall down a staircase.

  • Reviewed February 20, 1999 / Posted February 26, 1999

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