Movie Review: “Perfect Sisters” Is Disturbing And Heartbreaking

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Review by James McDonald

Tired of their mother’s alcoholism and a string of her abusive boyfriends, two sisters plot to kill her.

In “Perfect Sisters”, Sandra (Abigail Breslin) & Beth (Georgie Henley) have just moved into a new apartment with their younger brother and mother Linda (Mira Sorvino). It is the latest move in a string of moves because their mother is an alcoholic that hooks up with the wrong guys who insists on moving away from them when they break up, which is constant. The sisters are fed up with their nomadic journeying and Linda promises them that this time will be different. She quickly gets work as a nurse at a nearby hospital but it’s only a matter of time before she’s let go because of her constant boozing.

She then hooks up with Bowman (James Russo) who initially seems to be a nice guy but then forces himself on Beth one evening and it’s at this point that the girls have had enough, annoyed and upset at the fact that their mother seems to care more about him than them. In school one day, they and two of their friends try to imagine the perfect scenario for killing their mother. Of course, their friends think they are just living out their frustrations, a sort of imaginary therapy but when they realize that they are for real, the friends begin to have doubts but reluctantly continue to help them out, still of the mindset that they won’t go through with it.

One evening, they get their mother full of booze and pills and then put her into the bathtub where they drown her. Afterwards, the drowning is recognized as an accident by the authorities and the two girls are sent to stay with their aunt while their younger brother ends up staying with his father and his family. All appears to be well and the two girls are delighted to be away from their mother but shortly after, word gets around the school that they actually killed her and they are then looked upon as superstars, teenagers who got away with murder. As Sandra envelopes her new-found fame, she begins partying with all the popular kids and while drunk one evening, she confesses to the murder, several times.

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The movie is harrowing and at times, very difficult to watch. The scene in which Sandra drowns her mother, was heartbreaking, for both Linda and Sandra. Watching Linda try to fight for air while inebriated and not having proper strength to fight back, was agonizing. Mira Sorvino played her part with conviction. She has always been a very talented actress but this is the first performance of hers in years that made me realize why she won her Oscar back in 1996. Both Abigail Breslin and Georgie Henley played the sisters convincingly. The fact that they were closer than most siblings their age ever will be, was a testament to the suffering and indignity they endured.

Throughout the movie, when either Sandra or Beth are upset, they turn to each other for strength and occasionally, we see their perception of what the perfect mother should be, whether it’s Linda made up and dressed in a cardigan and skirt, carrying home-made cupcakes, the stereotypical representation of the 1950s ‘perfect’ mother or whether she’s dressed up in a leather jacket and pants, more akin to their personalities, this one aspect of the movie felt really out of place for me. I understand the logic behind it, that the two girls have created an imaginary illusion they both share, which helps them cope with real life but it just felt disproportionate to the rest of the film.

Other than that one gripe, the film illustrates a true and accurate representation of what it’s like to be an alcoholic and what it’s like to live with one. The performances are flawless and director Stanley M. Brooks does an exceptional job showing teenage angst and grief but also shows the mother’s perspective as an alcoholic and how she tries to keep her family together, all the while, battling her own demons.

In select theaters April 11th

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James McDonald
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