Once again, here is a film that needed to be made if only to expose serious medical & political problems plaguing us, but also to rise intelligently & compassionately above the trash that's been ubiquitously served from the Hollywood factory. Unfortunately, it is badly scripted, confusingly edited, and often reduced to soap opera mode with an overload of weepy bathos.
We focus on a pair of sisters, the older one, Kate (Sofia Vassilieva), bravely suffering with leukemia; the other, her younger sister, Anna (Abigail Breslin), who has become a genetic savior to Kate, giving up body parts & fluids to keep the girl alive. When she's expected to give up a kidney, she rebels - turns to a slick lawyer (Alec Baldwin) to fight her case. Enter mother (Cameron Diaz), torn between her daughters & their sibling complications while keeping the rest of her family - husband, son, etc. - on an even keel. Then, enter a most sympathetic judge (Joan Cusack) to help make difficult choices.
There are touching flashbacks, with Kate's first love interest (with another cancer patient) along with a slight - but not complete - fleshing out of all the characters along the way. What makes the film go wrong is, first of all, the script, taken from Jodi Picoult's novel; I never read the book, but the film created by Jeremy Leven & Nick Cassavetes has been drenched in hanky-sopping material, added to with more hyping up by Cassavetes as director. You see it right from the very first shot, a profile of Kate, head bent in pensive sadness augmented by Daron Zeginon's (sp?) lush, delicately underlining piano tinkling. And it never lets up.
There's another device that might have worked, but is used inconsistently and doesn't - each character narrating his/her personal attitude. It should help, but as used it seems more like an excuse for bad writing than needed fleshing.
For me, the most serious problem lies in the writer/director not really understanding how young people speak or act. A very young girl doesn't say, "Mom, you gave up everything for me - your life, your work, your role in the family?" Nor does she enter into her first love scene as if mimicking all those trite adult romantic facsimiles - looking deeply into his eyes, her lips parting seductively, as the camera moves in for its extreme close-up of moist lips, etc. As presented, both girls are far too precocious, rarely just kids trapped in an unsolvable situation. Instead, Cassavetes handles them and others with a kind of cardboard stiffness, creating an unreal set of characters.
The director seems uncomfortable in directing adults as well, though in this case he does permits Diaz the opportunity to prove herself a strong emotional actress, allowing her to run the full gamut from rage to pity and back again.
Cassavetes has created a 112-minute chick flick, a 3-hanky tear-jerker that will impress only the most easily impressionable young women in the audience. Pity. It coulda been a contender.