[Review] 'The Sisters Brothers' Drags, But Still Burns Its Way Into Your Comfort Zone
I missed my London Film Festival screening of THE SISTERS BROTHERS last October, and I genuinely wish I didn’t – then I wouldn’t have needed to be very much excited, only to be rather disappointed in what was presented to me.
The film had a lot of promise. It is a film featuring some of Hollywood’s best actors, in Jake Gyllenhaal and Joaquin Phoenix. It served as NIGHTCRAWLER reunion for Gyllenhaal and his co-star in both respective films, Riz Ahmed. It is also the premise for another dramatic (rather than comedic) John C. Reilly performance, which he has proved to be a talent in. Despite all this, the film managed to appeal as much as it repelled.
Whilst there are good aspects, the film is very flawed. Audiard’s direction isn’t at all bad, as he does well in focusing on his themes and the film’s message, but the narrative he sets up is convoluted, as well as the overall pacing of the film.
The best aspects of the film, in my opinion, were Phoenix and Gyllenhaal, both giving impressive performances, Gyllenhaal being rather shy and closed-off, and Phoenix doing his best Captain Jack Sparrow impression, being indulged in his drunkard behavior and his boastfulness.
The cinematography was beautiful, but at times disengaging. The Western featured gorgeous wide-angled landscape shots, but besides that I found a lot of the camerawork and positioning to be messy, also factored by some clumsy editing that made it feel out of focus. The lighting in dark scenes also contributed to the cinematography feeling out-of-hand, by being really unclear and hard to see. Despite that, the film has a very grainy image, giving a sort of antique, Western look to it, fitting in with the film’s story.
Some discerning scenes towards the end of the movie were played out brilliantly as well, by the use of great makeup effects, making these certain scenes very visceral, as well as by suspenseful, drawn-out cinematography, that made the scene feel all the more unnerving.
The score by Alexandre Desplat was a nice touch to the film, adding a touching backdrop that felt suitable to the “homeliness” theme of the film, when it came to one of its themes – the desire to settle down.
THE SISTERS BROTHERS is an ambitious first attempt at an English-language film by French director, Jacques Audiard. His direction of the actors works very well, along with the material given to them, however, the narrative itself does not work on a whole, which isn’t helped by the film’s weak pacing, messy editing and unfocused camerawork.