One of my absolute least favorite genres is the "disease of the week" movie. There are lots of genres I prefer less than others, but in the case of this one, I can't understand why people like it. Why would anyone want to go see a movie about people getting sick and probably dying? The nearest I can figure is that, for viewers who like to cry, this is an almost certain tearjerker. Otherwise, perhaps it makes viewers feel good about not being sick. Who knows? But this week, fate has handed me an almost perfect example of what I hate about this genre, as well as an alternate example of just how it can work.

My Sister's Keeper (262 screens) is the bad one, though it does begin with a good idea. Anna Fitzgerald (Abigail Breslin) was created in a test tube essentially to provide "spare parts" for her older sister, Kate (Sofia Vassilieva), who is stricken with leukemia. When Anna reaches the age of ten, she approaches a lawyer (Alec Baldwin) to sue for the rights to her own body. But rather than following that lead, the movie then spends the bulk of its running time in the hospital with Kate, watching her get sick and throw up while others weep and study test results. She gets a little brief romance, but it ends tragically. The worst thing of all is that, despite all this focus on Kate, she never emerges as a character. She's always good-natured, strong and loving. (We see her dark side only once, in a flashback.) Essentially, she is defined by her disease. She is "cancer girl" and nothing more.
categories Columns, Cinematical