The right kind of 'Sisterhood'

Posted: August 05, 2008

Second time around, the magic jeans are an even better fit.

But don't think that The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, sequel to the 2005 film based on the young-adult novels by Ann Brashares, is about fashionistas looking for love and marriage, like virtually every movie targeting females.

Sisterhood 2 tracks the lonely summer after freshman year, that challenging season when you no longer fit in your parents' home. When you struggle to find your place without the friends who sustained you through high school. And when you know that though you have to go it alone, it's easier with a little help from your friends - in the form of those charmed denims that serendipitously fit all of you.

Director Sanaa Hamri (Something New) gets appealing performances from Alexis Bledel, America Ferrera, Blake Lively and Ambler Tamblyn (respectively, TV's Gilmore Girl, Ugly Betty, Gossip Girl, and Joan of Arcadia), more nuanced actresses than they were in 2005.

Hamri and returning screenwriter Elizabeth Chandler skillfully juggle multiple locations and story lines, each of which shows a sister wrestling her primal fear.

Shy Lena (Bledel), at Rhode Island School of Design, is drawn to a male model who poses in her life-drawing class.

Insecure Carmen (Ferrera), one year in at Yale, is toiling backstage in summer stock when she gets pushed in front of the curtain.

In-denial Bridget (Lively), a Brown student working on an archaeological dig in Turkey, excavates her grief about her mother's death.

Noncommital Tibby (Tamblyn), NYU aspiring filmmaker, shrinks from a beau (Leonardo Nam) who wants commitment.

As each hogs the spotlight in her own personal melodrama, she forgets to take her turn in the ensemble of the sisterhood.

The resulting drama is more deeply felt than it is deep. But I can't think of another film so frankly dealing with what we expect from friendship, so tenderly showing how friends can fail in one area, yet be there in another. This isn't Mean Girls; it's Keen Girls, with standout performances from Ferrera and Tamblyn, each of whom expresses more with an arched eyebrow than most actresses can with their entire bodies.

Given the general thrust of movies about teenage girls, it's refreshing that in this one the prize isn't the Boy or the Ring.

Sisterhood 2's four-girls-four configuration naturally invites comparison with Sex and the City. But despite Sisterhood's PG-13 rating (for discreet discussion of pregnancy and mental illness - and discreet pans across the male form), it's closer to Second Base and the City, appropriate for 11-year-olds and their grandmothers.


Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or crickey@phillynews.com. Read her blog, "Flickgrrl," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/flickgrrl

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