Tribeca 2012: “Your Sister's Sister” Shows Off Great Improv

Emily Blunt stars in a film about bad decisions

"Your Sister's Sister," from writer-director Lynn Shelton, finds three damaged people trapped in a remote cabin, where their various emotional entanglements force them to confront some hard truths about themselves and each other. The film made its Tribeca premiere last night to a rousing ovation.

Emily Blunt stars as Iris, a woman whose best friend, Jack (Mark Duplass), has been depressed for a year, causing Iris to banish him to her family's vacation home on an island off the coast of Washington state so he can get some alone time. But when he arrives, he finds Iris' sister, Hannah (Rosemarie Dewitt), drowning the sorrow of having walked out on her girlfriend of seven years.

Looking back, what much of what unfolds seems predictable, but three strong performances featuring some hilarious and brutally honest improv make for great viewing. The action hinges, like too much real-life drama, on two people sleeping together when they know they shouldn't. Shelton, who is already at work on her next film, "Touchy Feely," back in Washington, flew to New York for the screening. When asked why we often make bad decisions when we know we shouldn't, Shelton laughed.

"Because we're human beings...we are all of us cracked vessels. Especially when it comes to bedmates, I think."

Shelton's previous films were shot with scripts not more than 10 pages long, including "Humpday," which also starred Duplass, an improv veteran. Shelton's not exactly sure what makes for a great improv artist, but she can see it in Duplass' process, and was amazed at how quickly Dewitt and Blunt caught on.

"Given the proper amount of back story and the opportunity to fully collaborate, and really being encouraged to bring themselves to the project--they were fantastic, they were awesome," she said of Dewitt and Blunt

"So it gives me confidence that I could actually get improvisation out of anybody. And I don't know if it's true, but I think there's a certain fearlessness--you have to be an actor who is not too tied up in their wanting to feel safe, and wanting to feel like everything that comes out is going to be perfect. It's the ultimate risk. It's being willing to put yourself out there and fall on your face."

Blunt's agent, it turns out, was a huge fan of "Humpday," and reached out to Shelton on her client's behalf. The Shelton and Blunt then spent a year talking over the phone about the characters, and In deference to Blunt's being unaccustomed to improv, Shelton wrote what she termed a "70-page script-ment." And good thing, too, because Dewitt was added to the cast just three days before the two-week shoot began, when another actress had to bail.

"I'd been obsessed with (Blunt) since I saw 'Sunshine Cleaning' and I realized that she was the same woman who I'd seen in 'Devil Wears Prada', because I hadn't recognized her at all, and i was gong, 'Oh, you're blowing my mind, alright, now I have to work with you someday." 

"Your Sister's Sister" will be showing at the Tribeca Film Festival on Sunday at 9 pm and Wednesday at 11:30 am, find more details here.

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