Sunday 29 December 2019

Movie Review: The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants (2005)

A coming-of-age teen drama centred around four close friends, The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants tackles serious issues with a tender touch. Excellent performances from the young cast enhance the film's quality.

Friends since birth, four 17 year old teen girls are preparing for their first summer apart. While out shopping together, they find a pair of jeans that remarkably fits them all perfectly. They vow to share the jeans throughout the summer, mailing it to each other along with updates about their summer adventures.

Lena (Alexis Bledel) is the thoughtful introvert of the group, and a budding artist. In Greece to spend the summer with her grandparents she meets dishy fisher Kostas (Michael Rady), but finds it difficult to open up to his overtures. Long-held family feuds also get in the way.

Tibby (Amber Tamblyn) wants to be a documentary filmmaker but is downbeat about having to stay behind in dull Maryland working at the local discount department store. Her sarcastic outlook on life is challenged when she meets the cheerful and precocious 12 year old Bailey (Jenna Boyd).

Carmen (America Ferrera) is half Puerto Rican and being raised by her divorced mom Christina (Rachel Ticotin). She is excited to visit her dad Al (Bradley Whitford) in Charleston. But Carmen is shocked to find him living with the very WASPy Lydia (Nancy Travis) and her two teen kids. Al and Lydia are about to get married and he makes no time for Carmen.

Bridget (Blake Lively) lost her mother to suicide. Vivacious, driven and a budding soccer superstar, Bridget heads to a soccer summer camp in Mexico, where she immediately sets out to seduce dishy coach Eric (Mike Vogel).

An adaptation of the Ann Brashares novel with a screenplay by Delia Ephron and Elizabeth Chandler, The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants streamlines the book into a cohesive screen package. With an emphasis on personal growth and confronting real world difficulties, director Ken Kwapis displays a deft touch to juggle four stories and still maintain focus on the central friendship theme.

With four mini chapters to get through, Kwapis never lingers in one place for too long, and the film creates a sense of welcome energy. The main narrative challenge of nurturing the core bond between the women as they are off on their own separate adventures is achieved through the letters accompanying the mailed pants and unexpected turns during the summer forcing some early reunions.

With the traveling pants a useful plot device to instigate the boost of transitional courage needed in adulthood, the four friends step out of their cocoons and out of their comfort zones. Growing up involves confronting emotional pain, the spectre of death, unexpected disappointments, burgeoning sexuality and forbidden zones established by others, then deciding how to fit into the cycle of turmoil called life. Most of all, The Sisterhood is about the budding women better understanding why they behave the way they do, and their individual and collective power to change.

Not surprisingly given the target audience, some of the events are painted in broad brushes. Carmen's father Al is portrayed as a first class doofus, and the romance between Lena and Kostas has gooey moments. Young Bailey's emotional intellect is just too perfectly sophisticated, and Bridget's relentless pursuit of Eric borders on stalking.

But the four friends are brought to life by bright performances from the talented cast, and they help to smooth over the rough spots. Beldel, Tamblyn, Ferrera and Lively are all provided individual opportunities to shine and collective scenes of friendship, but they are first and foremost convincing as grounded teenagers with distinct personalities awakening to the imperfect world of adults and their evolving position within it.

The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants contains sprinklings of magic dust discovered by close friends, but available to all.

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