What it lacks is a compelling 2nd or even 3rd act to tie the buildup together with a satisfying conclusion.
Director Brian De Palma
Screenplay Brian De Palma, Louisa Rose
Starring Margot Kidder, Jennifer Salt, William Finley, Charles Durning, Lisle Wilson
De Palma’s fascination with Hitchcock is obvious through this work, studying the effect of the separation of Siamese twins. Kidder plays Dominique and Danielle, the latter of which is a model employed by a candid camera type television show. She ends up going out to dinner with one of the contestants (Wilson). There, she is confronted by the Danielle’s peculiar ex-husband Emil (Finley), but her date Phillip gets rid of him. Then she invites Philip home with her.
The next morning, Phillip hears Danielle arguing with her sister in the next room. He doesn’t think at all about the fact that supposedly this sister was dead. Instead he goes to get a birthday cake to celebrate their birthday. He comes back and then is murdered.
Across the way, reporter and nosey neighbor Grace Collier (Salt) witnesses Philip’s last moments. She calls the police and gets involved with the investigation. It was a different time is all one can think, as she pores over the crime scene, poking her way through evidence.
The film, with a semi-retired Bernard Hermann making the score, has all of the earmarks of a mid-century Hitchcock production. Throw in a liberated female (Salt) and more voyeurism into the mix and we get prime De Palma, ready to expound on the lessons of his cinematic master.
The film has plenty going for it. There are two sequences with dual cameras that work to ratchet up the tension. Seeing one side of the screen cleaning a crime scene when the other side is simultaneously calling on the crime and waiting to meet up with the police is tough to synchronize. By now this feels second nature to De Palma.
Where Sisters lets down is in the acting, which feels at best like a television movie. Kidder’s accent, supposedly French-Canadian, is tough to listen to for even short periods. They have her talk a bunch for the first half of the film. Salt’s portrayal comes across more as a pest than as a liberated woman.
The choices she makes in following her suspects leads to one of the more ludicrous sequences and derails the film completely. Meanwhile, Charles Durning follows the evidence to Canada.
I can’t say this is a bad film. It has some truly unique qualities for all of the respect paid to De Palma’s directing hero. What it lacks is a compelling 2nd or even 3rd act to tie the buildup together with a satisfying conclusion. Perhaps if he had better scripts to work with, like he does with The Untouchables, De Palma’s real skill with the camera could shine.
(**1/2 out of *****)