Back in 2004, Jodi Picoult wrote a provocative novel based on a news story about a real-life couple (Mary and Abe Ayala) who decided to conceive a baby specifically to be a compatible bone marrow donor for Anissa, their older, leukemia-stricken daughter. An ethical debate erupted and that’s the genesis of this misguided concept.
Abigail Breslin (“Little Miss Sunshine”) plays Anna, the narrator, who explains, “I was made in a Petri dish to be spare parts” for her beloved sister, Kate (Sofia Vassilieva), who has leukemia. Their determined mother, Sara (Cameron Diaz), quit her career as an attorney to provide full-time care for Kate, dominating her hapless husband, Brian (Jason Patric) and ignoring the needs of Sara and her dyslexic brother, Jesse (Evan Ellingson). But now, after 11 years of enduring painful medical procedures, spunky Sara enlists the aid of a flamboyant lawyer (Alec Baldwin) to sue her parents for “medical emancipation,” seeking ownership of her own body. That’s the quandary facing Judge De Salvo (Joan Cusack) who presides at the unconventional trial.
Dwelling on long, drawn-out scenes of Kate’s pitiful suffering, neither screenwriter Jeremy Leven nor tear-jerking director Nick Cassavetes (who collaborated on “The Notebook”) waste a moment on common sense in dealing with her inevitable death and the chaotic chronology is beyond confusing. In one scene, Sofia Vassilieva is bald; in another, she has a mane of long, blonde hair; then she’s bald again. No explanation given. And Cameron Diaz, who was supposedly dedicated to achieving ‘reality,’ obviously fakes a maternally sympathetic head-shaving gesture.
Lest you ponder this moral dilemma this too long, what the Ayalas did many years ago probably wouldn’t happen today. A huge national marrow donor program exists and fewer leukemia patients require marrow transplants. And, as a sidebar, Anissa Ayala is cancer-free and working as a development director for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “My Sister’s Keeper” is an agonizing 4.What a maudlin mess!