Roger Ebert had a great line describing the feel of this movie. After quoting a piece of wacky dialogue (talking about lesbian Satanism), Ebert said: "It's a powerful indication of just how well Little Sister works that the above exchange does not come off as 'quirky,' or 'kooky,' or a 'black comedy' ba-dumb-ching punchline."
That's what I mean in the title of this review. Although you'd think the story is poised to be a thick satire, it's not. And that's what makes it unique and effective. I mean with a plot about an ex-goth girl becoming a nun whilst reconnecting with her brother who came back from the war in Iraq and her stoner parents in a small town in North Carolina, you'd think this could be every bit as cheeky as Edward Scissorhands without the scissors. But instead, director Zach Clark chose to play it straight.
The result is a film that might not be as laugh-out-loud funny or bizarre as it could be, but in its place we get a serious message that we can apply to our lives. I won't tell you what that message is, but if you watch the movie then pay attention to Ally Sheedy's (the mom) monologue near the end which ties everything together and drives the point home.
Gosh well I just made this movie sound as dry as a nun's gusset. But no, it's actually interesting and had a few moments of classic humor. One such moment happens when the girl, all gothed up, and her brother, disfigured from the war, are walking in the woods when they come up on a young kid who stares at them and asks "are you monsters?" Awkward silence is followed by the brother shrugging and saying matter-of-factly, "yeah."
It's this sort of subtle humor with serious meaning that carries the film all the way through. So, as Roger Ebert said, don't expect a lot of zingers because this movie is pretty subtle.
Something worth mentioning is the odd soundtrack composed of a lot of drum solos and 80s alt-metal/punk bands like GWAR ("Have You Seen Me"), Christian Death ("Romeo's Distress") and Kitchen & the Plastic Spoons ("Happy Funeral"). The use of obscure cult classics reminded me of the films "Pump Up the Volume" and "Empire Records", two other great films that have a similar vibe to Little Sister, that is, a wacky plot but played mostly on a serious level to keep things real.
Acting is excellent all around with a notable performance by Ally Sheedy who plays a dysfunctional mom who could easily be the grown up version of her iconic character in "The Breakfast Club" (1985). Cinematography is interesting, beginning with conservative shots & reality (hand held camera), but as the plot gets weirder so does the camera, bringing us to a bizarre Halloween climax that could've easily been shot by Tim Burton. Little Sister is totally worth the price of admission and I'll probably be watching it a 2nd time. So I guess you could say this nun flick is habit forming. (How's that for a ba-dumb-ching)