The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
Directed by Ken Kwapis. Starring Amber Tamblyn, Alexis Bledel, America Ferrera, Blake Lively, Jenna Boyd, Bradley Whitford, Nancy Travis, Rachel Ticotin, Mike Vogel, Michael Rady, Leonardo Nam. (2005, PG, 119 min.)
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., June 3, 2005
For a movie about magic pants, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants shows a surprising level of sophistication – in its performances, its production values, and its emotional maturity. Given its built-in audience (the source material is Ann Brashares’ bestselling young-adult series), the filmmakers probably could have phoned in something far inferior and still been a success, but The Sisterhood is a consistently classy operation. Even its giggling premise – four lifelong friends find a single pair of blue jeans that miraculously fits each of their body shapes beautifully – transforms into something symbolic, and sincerely moving, about the girls’ unbreakable bond. That bond is tested for the first time during the summer before their senior year of high school, in which the girls must disband for their own adventures. Sassy writer-to-be Carmen (Real Women Have Curves’ Ferrera) heads south to spend the summer with her estranged father (Whitford); beautiful but insecure Lena (Gilmore Girls’ Bledel) vacations in seaside Greece with her grandparents; Bridget (newcomer Lively), reeling from her mother’s recent suicide, attends soccer camp in Mexico; and surly film geek Tibby (Joan of Arcadia’s Tamblyn) is stuck back home in Baltimore, stocking shelves at a chain superstore and working on her "suckumentary," a video chronicling of losers. The magic pants, which get visitation rights with each girl over the summer, serve to unify the four storylines, although that structure creates a maybe-inevitable choppiness to the narrative. Dramatically, Bridget and Lena’s stories are both a bit of a bust (but are visually breathtaking); both stories also curiously feature love affairs with college-aged boys (perhaps "statutory rape" doesn’t translate the same in Greek fishing villages and Mexican beachside camps?). The girls still stateside are the film’s brightest spots; Tamblyn, all deadpan, and Ferrera are terrifically appealing, yin-and-yang actresses, and the film benefits greatly when their stories meet up in the middle of the movie. (Ferrera’s Carmen – sharp-witted, sensitive, and secure in her body and mind – makes for an especially worthy role model for the target audience.) One wishes for more of these shared experiences, actually: The easy, fast-talking rapport between the four young women is The Sisterhood’s biggest selling point. Too bad, then, that the premise demands they spend most of the film away from one another.