The Sisters, I've discovered, is based on Anton Checkov's The Three Sisters, and is just the latest in a fairly long line of adaptations about siblings who struggle to overcome their dismal existence.
In Richard Alfieri's screenplay, the Prior siblings--three sisters, and a brother--are academics who hide themselves deep within sarcasm and cynicism they've mistaken for intelligence.
Maria Bello has the meatiest role as the oldest--and clearly, the most disturbed--sister, Marcia Prior Glass. Marcia is antagonistic, petty, mean-spirited and vulgar. She seems to dominate her siblings through cruelty, while sister Olga remains analytically cold and aloof, and younger sister Irene struggles to find her own identity. Brother Andrew is clearly an outsider in the family; he is tolerated by the sisters but viewed with contempt, even though his character appears sympathetic and sincere to the audience.
Subplots involving infidelity (with Marcia) and a love triangle (with Irene) are prominent in the film, but take a back seat to the unveiling of the reason for the dysfunction that so clearly exists: Marcia, the oldest and most attractive of the daughters, was molested by their father. The cynicism and dysfunction has been formed from years of confusion, repression and denial.
Healing wounds that deep takes some seriously deep, surgical incisions. The Sisters is about that process.
The film is difficult to watch for a variety of reasons. It's designed like a play with heavy dialogue, minimal movement and few scenery transitions. And despite the obvious reasons for the dysfunctional behavior that exists among the sisters, there isn't a likable character in the entire cast. And finally, the movie's ending wasn't neatly wrapped like we find too often in today's pre-fab flicks. This ending keeps you curious about the family, and what may have happened to the siblings.
Here's a tip before you rent the DVD: If you liked Glengarry Glen Ross, you'll probably like The Sisters.
If you didn't, take a pass.