Combustible Celluloid
Search for streaming:
NetflixHuluGoogle PlayGooglePlayCan I
With: LisaGay Hamilton, Yolonda Ross, Edward James Olmos, Harold Perrineau, Hector Elizondo, Isaiah Washington, Vanessa Martinez, Tessa Rose Ferrer
Written by: John Sayles
Directed by: John Sayles
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 123
Date: 11/08/2013

Go for Sisters (2013)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Law and Borders

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The name John Sayles should be legend in movie circles. He has been an independent, uncompromising filmmaker for 33 years, making adult dramas about the gray areas of life. (Although he does pay the rent by selling his services as a Hollywood screenwriter and script doctor.) Go for Sisters is his latest, his eighteenth overall, and despite a lone Independent Spirit Award nomination, it seems destined to fade into this awards season unnoticed.

It begins at the desk of a parole officer somewhere in Los Angeles. Her name is Bernice (LisaGay Hamilton), and she's often described -- to her face -- as a hardass. The movie opens on a pretty young woman (Tessa Rose Ferrer) telling a complex story about why she was caught at a house full of drugs. (If this movie ever received any kind of attention, it would be a star-making moment.) Bernice doesn't buy it.

Next up is Fontayne (Yolonda Ross, an Independent Spirit nominee for her performance) who is in trouble for accepting a ride from a friend that did not have a driver's license. Fontayne and Bernice were inseparable friends in high school (they could "go for sisters"), and now they're on opposite sides of a parole desk. Fontayne's life is pretty rough. She's trying to stay clean, and works in a diner, where her former dealer (Harold Perrineau) comes in to pester her.

Things aren't so good for Bernice, either. Her affair with a married man has just ended, and her son Rodney has dropped out of her life. Now he seems to have disappeared entirely. When one of Rodney's cohorts winds up murdered, Bernice realizes that her son may have been kidnapped. With no one else to turn to, she enlists Fontayne's help in finding her son. Together they hire an ex-cop, an overweight, nearly blind old grump named Freddy Suarez (Edward James Olmos), who nonetheless knows his way around and how to get information.

This mismatched trio goes on a noirish adventure through the southern United States and Mexico. Sayles isn't particularly good with genre elements, and he never really develops any strong suspense or action sequences. Even a scene with some thugs and a gun falls flat. Moreover, Go for Sisters is far too long for a crime movie -- Sayles has always edited his own movies, which could be a benefit or a mistake -- and the pacing eventually wanes.

However, the strong characters and their fascinating relationships save the movie. The two women are both strong, smart and cynical, though at different times it seems as if one or the other of them is just a bit more so. They butt heads and argue, but at the core, their old friendship becomes rekindled. Olmos' character is a bit showy, but he has fun with it, playing it as if it was a modern Philip Marlowe.

Sayles sometimes sacrifices naturalism for realism, and some moments can be a bit awkward, but by the movie's end our affection is with the two friends, and the final moment is happily earned.

Hulu Castle Rock SVOD