Year Released: 2005
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 119 minutes
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There is such confidence and loving direction in “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”. All the actresses feel not as if they’re responding to Ken Kwapis’ edicts, but rather working along with him to fashion performances of differing quality. The music chosen to underscore the emotion of the scenes is good enough to seem like it has been there long before the editing process. You can imagine Kwapis either accessing a mental history of music he’s heard in his lifetime, or simply sitting down with a stack of CDs long before production, ruminating over the choices which he knows will affect a scene one way or another. He isn’t of the same mold as Cameron Crowe, but he chooses melodies which are serviceable toward the changing lives of these four girls, played by Amber Tamblyn, America Ferrara, Blake Lively, and Alexis Bledel. In a way, it’s his escape from television work and he obviously likes it.
This is a maturity among the four actresses that rises to a level of serious entertainment without being maudlin or overly sugary. Ferrara has slowly but surely been building herself up as an affecting actress. Her Carmen, the Puerto Rican daughter of a domesticated suburban white guy (Bradley Whitford, skillfully making Josh Lyman of “The West Wing” disappear for a time) is remarkable with real frustration that comes to a head as she doesn’t realize why her father suddenly left her and her mother for this Southern woman and her kids. This isn’t the only “why” found here. The next comes from Amber Tamblyn, formerly of “Joan of Arcadia” who needs a lot more movies. Constantly coupled with the right directors who don’t waste her shining talent, she can play subtlety in a manner that brings us closer to her characters. As Tibby, the cynical young documentarian spending the summer working at Wallman’s—a barely disguised poke at Wal-Mart—she meets Bailey (Jenna Boyd) who collapses in the store that first time. Boyd’s got that spark too that makes any actor worth watching. Through Bailey, she learns that life is not all losers and low-rent dreams, and her journey is the one most worth watching.
Bledel merely turns Rory Gilmore down a few octaves as the shy Lena, in Greece for a summer vacation with her grandparents, where she meets Kostos (Michael Rady), a relationship rejected by her grandmother on the basis that Kostos’ grandfather called her grandfather “cheap”. It’s trite that way because there’s no reason for that. Summer love should be explored without those kinds of stupid barriers. It’s enough that she’s in Greece. It’s enough that she’s slowly trying to come out of her shell. It’s enough that she takes to this guy. And the last girl, Bridget, played by Lively, lost her mother some time ago and as a way of not quite getting over her death, she pursues one of the soccer coaches at her Baja camp. Four stories, all connected by a pair of jeans which fits all these girls, even the fuller-built Carmen. There are rules set before all leave for the summer, and a “sisterhood” that connects them through the pair of jeans which is simply a fine catalyst to bring us to the stories of these girls. We at least variety and boredom is not entirely present. Even when it’s frustrating to watch Bledel simply being quiet, there’s still the Greek countryside and the standard set of Old World grandparents.
Even when everything is so right, when Amber Tamblyn proves her invaluable worth, when America Ferrara makes her character’s plight felt so penetratingly, there are moments towards the end which make everything else feel a little cheap. I’ve not read the novel the movie is based upon, but what good is a screenplay if it can’t be changed for the sake of what’s happening on screen? The novel seems to be important to a lot of teenaged readers and that’s fine. But here we are, involved in all these stories for all this time, at least 109 minutes worth. All of a sudden, it’s as if director Kwapis scanned the screenplay and suddenly realized that two storylines remained unresolved and immediately had to rectify it by making everything feel incredibly and shamefully rushed. Many times over, “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” is breezy and pleasurable to watch. So why neglect the ending then? Why take everything and push it off to the side just to focus on an ending which only seemed to happen for the sake of a reasonable running time? There’s a bit of a cheat there. While it’s certainly not the same, it’d be like watching the climax of “Jaws” by fast-forwarding through it. No one really feels anything by using the fast-forward button on a VCR remote. The part that comes up after they push “play” is what matters. It shouldn’t feel that way here.
With the DVD of this release, there’s real thought as to who might buy it to the point where the extra features are tailored to the presumed teenage girl crowd. Thankfully, there are no annoying on-screen quizzes with asinine questions, and no music video from a here-today-gone-later-in-the-afternoon teenybopper singer. There’s the usual interviews in “Fun on the Set” in which the actresses’ admiration toward each other feels genuine enough, and the “Suckumentary” which Tibby was working on is included here, though for an indie filmmaker like her, it feels far too polished. Where she would want to get to the facts about what she doesn’t like in her town as well as the people she brands as “losers”, this is padded quite a bit with effects that don’t seem like her style at all.
Smartly enough, a 17-minute video commentary with Alexis Bledel, America Ferrara, and Amber Tamblyn is included, with all of them sitting around, watching and commenting on selected scenes from the movie. An ingenious move because this isn’t the right disc to house a full-length audio commentary. There’s enough information given here from everyone, with one or two of the girls filling in details for Blake Lively who is only heard by phone at the beginning. Author Ann Brashares is interviewed about her book, where she started, while the actors comment on their love for the book and Ken Kwapis gets a few words in as well. Deleted scenes with audio commentary by Kwapis is the first time I’ve ever been relieved to see deleted scenes deleted for good reason. There is a scene with Lena which would have been too conventional had it been put in, and the same goes for a scene for Bridget which looks too predictable. And after the theatrical trailer, it’s a trip on a DVD that’s as breezy as the movie and an excellent example of building a product with the consumer in mind. Everything’s snugly built in with nothing simply put on it just for the sake of having something featured.
Posted on October 9, 2005 in Reviews by Rory L. Aronsky
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- THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS
- LICENSE TO WED
- THE DISCREET CHARM OF DON BOURGEOIS
- FILM THREAT’S 2005 SUMMER MOVIE PREVIEW
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