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Film / The Other Sister

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"The Other Sister is shameless in its use of mental retardation as a gimmick, a prop and a plot device. Anyone with any knowledge of retardation is likely to find the film offensive. It treats the characters like cute little performing seals—who always deliver their "retarded" dialogue with perfect timing and an edge of irony and drama. Their zingers slide out with the precision of sitcom punch lines."
Roger Ebert, summing up the movie.

The Other Sister is a 1999 film directed by Garry Marshall, about a mentally disabled woman named Carla (Juliette Lewis), who meets and falls in love with a mentally disabled man named Daniel (Giovanni Ribisi), while trying to live independently from her mother (Diane Keaton).

The movie is basically a mixture of a Romantic Comedy and a Dramedy.

This movie contains examples of:

  • Berserk Button: Carla gets upset whenever she's laughed at.
  • Cosmetic Catastrophe: Carla gets a cheap makeover in a mall. Unfortunately, she has to find out that it covers just half of her face.
  • Elmer Fudd Syndrome/Porky Pig Pronunciation: Carla and Daniel speak in a mixture of these two ways. Daniel in particular has a severe stutter when he's upset.
  • "The Graduate" Homage Shot: Done with Daniel interrupting Carla's sister's wedding in order to profess his love for Carla. It's slightly different, in that he appears from the side of the church and slides down a streamer. It's also noteworthy that Carla and Daniel, in a couple of scenes throughout the movie, are watching The Graduate on TV.
  • Informed Attribute: As stated, for someone who is supposed to be legally mentally retarded, Carla seems to be of average intelligence.
  • Inspirationally Disabled: It attempts to avoid this trope, but much like Shallow Hal's utter failure at being "fat positive", the movie falls short of showing a developmentally disabled girl's moving out of her parents house and falling in love as anything other than a Narmy "triumph of the human spirit." The film basically displays Carla and Daniel desire to get married and move into their own place as cute rather than worthy of respect.
  • Open-Minded Parent: Zig-zagged with Elizabeth and played relatively straight with Radley.
  • My Beloved Smother: Carla's mother, Elizabeth, goes to great lengths to protect her. However, Carla and other characters feel she's taking it too far. In attempts to bond with her, she pressures her into activities in which she has no interest (such as tennis). Meanwhile, she initially shoots down all Carla's efforts to gain more independence before ultimately giving in.
  • That Makes Me Feel Angry: During a drunken rant, Daniel at one point announces "I'm very angry."
  • Third-Act Misunderstanding: Daniel gets drunk and accidentally upsets Carla, resulting in him inevitably trying to get back to her to prove himself.