Juliette Lewis began her career with a pair of fine, subtle turns as smart, gawky adolescents in Cape Fear and Husbands And Wives. Unfortunately, Lewis' ability as an actor seems to bear a direct correlation to the intelligence of the characters she portrays, a fact that helps explain her awful work as dim-witted, white-trash vixens in Natural Born Killers and Kalifornia. That should also go a long way toward explaining why her turn as a mildly retarded twentysomething in The Other Sister is so irritating. Lewis stars as the daughter of a loathsome, rich, conservative couple (Tom Skerritt and Diane Keaton), who take her back into their home after inexplicably sending her away to a special school for almost a decade. Lewis attends a local community college with fellow mentally disabled youth Giovanni Ribisi, and soon the irrepressible pair find themselves riding the short bus to love and romance. This, of course, enrages Keaton, who is understandably wary of the pleasant, sweet-natured retarded man who has taken a healthy interest in her daughter. Logically, of course, there's no reason for the chilly, negligent matriarch to oppose Lewis' relationship with Ribisi, or her attempts to attain some level of independence, but The Other Sister is such a contrived, clueless, reprehensible film that its skeletal, erratic plot demands that the couple live in a world which treats them with unyielding kindness one moment and irrational cruelty the next. Of course, there's no problem here that a few montage sequences set to soft-rock outtakes from the Pretty Woman soundtrack can't fix, and accordingly, director Garry Marshall devotes what seems like half of the film to an endless series of almost comically generic musical interludes. And while it would be nice to give Marshall's stilted, unwatchable film credit for at least having good intentions, its ultimate message—that gays and the handicapped should be tolerated so their wealthy, conservative betters won't have to feel guilty about mistreating them—is as morally repugnant as The Other Sister is artistically inept.
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