“… makes a really great trailer.”
The Sisters Brothers, a new western from director Jacques Audiard, makes a really great trailer. Unfortunately that’s about where I have to stop praising this bloated, tonally-inconsistent mess. My words seem harsh but I didn’t hate The Sisters Brothers, I only recognize that the film had some problems and if those problems, which were very avoidable might I add, were not present it would have been a solid movie. So I’m not mad at what we got, I’m mad at what we could have gotten. Based on a book of the same name by author Patrick deWitt, The Sisters Brothers follows two brothers (with the last name ‘Sisters’) as they proceed on a quest to track down a man who wronged their employer. It sounds like a straightforward story, but The Sisters Brothers is populated with smaller narratives that try to flesh out the world, but in turn make it hard to follow.
The main issue I had with The Sisters Brothers is that the movie gives you nothing to grab on to. It starts off in the middle of a story, and it does nothing to get you acquainted with these characters at all. This continues on to the end of the movie where you do finally feel attachment to some degree to what you’re seeing on screen, but it is simply because of the length of time you have spent with these characters. It has nothing to do with how they are presented, because in that regard The Sisters Brothers really makes you work for any emotional attachment; and trust me, it’s an uphill battle.
The characters in The Sisters Brothers are fairly one-dimensional, feeling more like archetypes than real people. This adds to, but is not the only factor that makes them hard to love. The interactions that are had between the brothers themselves (played by Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly) feel wooden as well as very separate from the rest of the story. The only character who doesn’t feel like a cardboard cutout is the character of Hermann, the man the brothers are pursuing. But it is clear that his watchability definitely comes from Riz Ahmed’s performance rather than the writing, which once again felt very flat.
The other factor that makes it feel like The Sisters Brothers is really trying to shake you off of its tail is the way the story is written and structured. The Sisters Brothers feels like a really long trailer with moments existing in vacuums to sell whatever story beat they are trying to peddle. This makes sense as to why The Sisters Brothers had such a good trailer, because it turns out not only were all of the best moments in it but there was not much missing in between. Even being generous and disregarding that fact, because I will admit it delivered quite a few laughs, The Sisters Brothers was a mess of a movie. It has two climaxes, neither one feeling satisfying in any way, shape, or form, and it goes on for 30 minutes too long. Not in the sense that collectively there are 30 minutes throughout the film that cut be cut, but in the sense that you could literally cut the film at the 90 minute mark and it would be stronger.
But I have to admit that The Sisters Brothers wasn’t all bad, as the carefree nature of the narrative allowed for a lot of fun scenarios and witty banter without fear of consequence for the rest of the story. Sure these moments are few and far between but they can’t be forgotten. A lot of them play into the fact that The Sisters Brothers is a western film, which aside from a few sight gags is incidental to the story. It just serves as a backdrop that is almost as boring as what is in the foreground.
Overall The Sisters Brothers wasn’t a complete waste of time with moments that were pretty fun, but most of those moments were in the trailer so I could have saved two hours. A very bland story and one-dimensional characters hold The Sisters Brothers back from being a truly great black comedy, which is disappointing because the bones are obviously there.
I give The Sisters Brothers a C