Making the Grades
Juliette Lewis plays Carla, the mentally challenged daughter of the wealthy Tate family. In flashbacks, we see her mother Elizabeth (Diane Keaton) deciding to send her to an institution and her somewhat alcoholic father Radley (Tom Skerritt) drunkenly agreeing. Now, many years later, Carla comes home to a family that hasn't visited her in a decade.
The predictable conflicts begin: Carla wants a life of her own, including an apartment. Elizabeth, contrary to earlier scenes, becomes protective and wants to recapture the opportunity to raise her daughter, while Radley just smiles a lot and tries to keep the peace. But when Carla meets Danny (Giovanni Ribisi), who is also mentally challenged, we see the writing on the wall. Hollywood can't resist its infatuation with two "innocent" characters trying to figure out how to have sex.
With a parallel sub-plot regarding Carla's homosexual sister, this film's obvious intent is to raise debate about the acceptance of people outside the "mainstream". But a fatal flaw exists in this creation by sitcom king Garry Marshall. Carla and Danny often sound more like Laverne and Shirley with speech impediments, as they spout finely tuned lines of comedic dialogue. In spite of their acting efforts, we are never convinced of a handicap with their reasoning. Danny hitchhikes from the central US to San Francisco and then quickly locates the church where Carla's sister is getting married -- a formidable task for any adult. He's also up to date on politically correct safe-sex information, which he shares with Carla.
With these inaccurate depictions of life with the mentally challenged, another dangerous message lurks. On two occasions, Danny turns to booze to overcome his fears, yet neither Carla (who recalls her father's alcoholic years), nor her parents ever discuss Danny's drinking habits. The Other Sister instead resorts to inappropriate comedy and conveniently sweeps any other obstacles under the Tate family's carpet of wealth. Buying a happy ending is popular in movies, but for those stuck in reality, the hard questions remain and the credits never roll.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Other Sister.
What challenges do you think Carla and Danny will face during their married life? What kinds of problems might they encounter if they have children? Carla’s parents can always financially support her and Danny, but would that be a help to their marriage?