Thursday, November 07, 2013

“Go For Sisters” – Movie Review



This week in my movie class, we saw the drama “Go For Sisters”, starring Edward James Olmos and written & directed by John Sayles.


When a woman learns her son has been kidnapped, can she rescue him before he’s murdered by his abductors?


As a seasoned Parole Officer, Bernice (LisaGay Hamilton) has pretty much heard it all from her clients and reliably detects whether she’s being lied to. One day, Bernice’s job requires her to cross paths with Fontayne (Yolonda Ross), a former high school friend turned ex-con who is confronted by Bernice for possibly having committed a parole violation. Fontayne convinces Bernice that she is desperately trying to turn her life around and that she can’t return to prison for fear that this would cause her to fall further down the slippery slope of recovery. When Bernice chooses to give her a second chance, Fontayne gratefully vows to someday return the favor, should the opportunity ever arise.

For some time, Bernice has been estranged from her son Rodney ever since he returned from a stint in the military. After unsuccessful attempts to reach out to him, she finds out that her son’s whereabouts are currently unknown; digging a little deeper, Bernice gets information that Rodney has been kidnapped by traffickers who smuggle people across the border between California and Mexico. Seeing that she needs help, Bernice enlists the aid of Fontayne, who continues to have many contacts on the street. Through a fellow former prison inmate of Fontayne’s, she and Bernice are introduced to Suarez (Olmos), a retired police detective whom Bernice hires to assist her in tracking down Rodney.

Making their way to Tijuana, each team member works on their own to uncover a trail they hope will ultimately lead them to Rodney. Doing so has its challenges, as they stumble across Mexican crime, complicated by the city’s corrupt police officers. Additionally, Suarez – who took the case only because he needed the money after forfeiting his police pension under some sketchy circumstances – is further debilitated by both his age and illness; add to that the language barrier Bernice and Fontayne have difficulties overcoming with many of the locals and chances of successfully locating Rodney alive grow increasingly dim. Ultimately, can Suarez’s law enforcement experience prove the key to unlocking the mystery behind Rodney’s disappearance?


In the last several decades of Director John Sayles’s oeuvre, he has (rightly or wrongly) gained something of a reputation as a filmmaker whose stories focus more on character than on plot. Whether you see this as an observation or a criticism depends on whether or not you’re a fan of Sayles’ work. As far as “Go For Sisters” is concerned, I believe it hinders the movie considerably. Basically, “Go For Sisters” more or less follows the formula of the buddy road movie (as does “Nebraska”, recently reviewed here), but if you’re following the story (or trying to), it starts feeling extremely familiar – and not necessarily in a good way. You’ll feel you’ve seen the movie before and become anxious for the subsequent scenes which you know are coming eventually; even though “Go For Sisters” is only two hours, you may find yourself squirming with impatience.

On the other hand, a true Sayles fan who enjoys his movies for the social consciousness and character-focused tales will likely appreciate “Go For Sisters” (and boy, do I have a problem with that title … but that may be a rant for another day … ). That said, I believe only those Sayles fans will be including this film on a list of his best works. Yes, he does a good job of filling in some of the background of the major characters in tiny smears here and there, but a large degree of frustration can develop if you’re trying to trace the details of the story, especially if you can’t tolerate suspending your disbelief terribly far.

After the screening, our instructor interviewed Sayles and cast members Olmos and Yolonda Ross. Sayles remarked that “Go For Sisters” was a rather quick shoot which took less than four weeks – what complicated it was that there was a mind-numbing 65 different sets in that short period of time. Olmos also gets a Producer credit on this movie; he said that although he was initially brought in for that job only, Sayles offered him the role of Suarez after reading the script. The actor also went into great detail discussing the fact that his character suffered from macular degeneration and how his research on this enervating vision problem informed his performance.

  Go for Sisters (2013) on IMDb 6.0/1031 votes


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