My Sister’s Keeper has been the book I recommend to anyone and everyone – male or female, young or older – since I read it three years ago. Imagine my excitement when I discovered that Jodi Picoult finally sold the rights to release it as a movie. Granted, I was skeptical of Cameron Diaz cast as the mother figure (my doubts were pleasantly diminished, by the way, after watching her believable, real performance) but I was ecstatic that this tear-jerker was going to unfold again before my eyes, only this time on the big screen.
Before I go any further, let me explain (as I mentioned in my previous review of Change of Heart) that this was the first book I EVER read that made me outwardly cry – and as an English teacher and life-long lover of reading, that’s saying a lot. I cry very easily during sad (even not so sad) movies but, for some reason, it is harder for me to cry while reading. Maybe the cognitive skills I use while reading is seeping the emotional energy out of me or maybe seeing something unfold in front of me is more compelling than watching the reading “movie” in my head. Who knows . . . but I do know that the twisted ending to this book – the tearjerker turn point – is the part that made the book so unbelievably great, so poignant, so “Jodi” – as my daughter would say. Yes, Picoult is her favorite contemporary author as well. She’s got me beat by having read eight of Picoult’s books so far . . . and counting.
I suppose this movie provided its own surprise ending by not having a surprise ending. It completely left out the twisted resolution that made My Sister’s Keeper the phenomenal New York Times bestseller that it is. Did the producers take the easy way out by portraying the expected ending to a sad cancer story? Did they want to leave the element of surprise to those who have not yet read the book? To the movie’s credit, if you did not read the book, you may walk out of the theatre believing you viewed a very solid movie – and you’d be right. On the other hand, acting out the Jodi Picoult original version would have been as easy to portray on film. I am convinced that if the original storyline was left in tact, this movie would have received even greater reviews from the critcs and even greater traffic at the box office.
Both the original and big-screen story center around Sara (Cameron Diaz) and Brian Fitzgerald (Jason Patric) who have been informed that their young daughter Kate (Sofia Vassilieva) has leukemia, and that she only has a few years to live. As the Internet Movie DataBase states, the doctor suggests to the parents that they try an unorthodox medical procedure of producing another child in a test-tube that would be a perfect match as a donor for Kate. Sara will try anything to save Kate, and they have a new baby Anna (Abigail Breslin) to be used as a donor for Kate. Right here, it becomes an interesting question to me asking if they had Sara for the right reasons. The first thing they use is blood from the umbilical cord for Kate. As years go on, the doctors must take bone marrow from Anna to give to Kate. At age 11, the next thing Anna must give to her sister is a kidney. Anna has had enough of all of these medical procedures, and she decides to sue her parents for medical emancipation and the right to decide how her body will be used. The whole family is being torn apart by Anna’s decision because everyone knows what will happen to Kate if she doesn’t get a new kidney. Anna will hire a maverick lawyer, Campbell Alexander (Alec Baldwin), who would look only onto Anna’s interest. The conflict ensues from there.
It appears that Cameron Diaz is maturing away from her giggly girlfriend days on to approachable, maternal roles. Her concern, anguish, and guilt come through loud and clear with this movie . . . she happily surprised me. Of course, Abigail Breslin does a seamless job as a wiser-than-her-years girl standing up for herself while fiercely loving her sister. Jason Patric is one of those “that guy” actors whose face we recognize but whose name slips us. I’ll certainly remember his face. 🙂 Kidding aside, he does a fine job of portraying the father and husband trying to balance life with his family. Sophia Vasselievia captures our hearts and sympathy instantly and portrays the dying sister with grace. Evan Ellingson charmingly plays the older brother whose own troubles get overshadowed by his sister’s illness. The book delves much deeper into the troubled soul of this young man. Finally, Alec Baldwin earns a solid pat on the back for his forceful prescence as maverick lawyer who only has Anna’s best interest in mind.
I won’t give away the ending, and I will continue to strongly recommend the read. On the other hand, Grading Girl gives the movie a solid C. Whether or not you read the book, the ending is, in my opinion, predictable and cliche. The acting is solid and it’s still a tearjerker, but it is not the compelling story line Picoult intended it to be. This may be a good movie to wait until DVD release. It’ll make for a decent movie to watch in the comfort of your own home on a chilly fall night. GG is disappointed.