(*homocinematically inclined)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Reel Thoughts: Blubbers & Sniffles

If you’re the type who mists up watching those AT&T ads where the couple fortuitously meets on a train, leading them to marry and have the future President of the United States, then you better bring a crate of Kleenex with you as you pop Brothers & Sisters: The Complete Fourth Season into the DVD player. What with Kitty’s ongoing cancer trauma, Rebecca’s unexpected pregnancy, and the horrifying car pileup that ends the season, you’ll be sobbing for days.

Of course, the brilliant thing about Brothers & Sisters is how it combines humor, intrigue, drama, heartbreak and romance into a thoroughly engrossing program with one of the best ensembles on television. Sally Field, as matriarch Nora Walker, is the heart of the show, while Calista Flockhart’s Kitty is the brain. Rachel Griffith as pragmatic daughter Sarah, Dave Annable as sweet screw-up Justin, Balthazar Getty as not-so-sweet, even more screwed up Tommy, Ron Rifkin as gruff Uncle Sol and Matthew Rhys as gay control freak Kevin are the soul. Patricia Wettig, Emily Van Camp, Rob Lowe, Luke MacFarlane and sexy Gilles Marini add depth to the core family.

Season Four spends a lot of time on Kitty’s lymphoma and treatment, although she herself says several times, “I don’t want to think about cancer.” There are plenty of other exciting plots happening as well. Kevin and Scotty decide to have a child through surrogacy, leading to fights about how workaholic Kevin will make time for a child. Justin struggles with medical school and trouble in his relationship with Rebecca, who not so long ago he thought was his half sister. In the most welcome casting all year, Sarah meets hunky artist Luc (Marini) in France, and he follows her home, allowing for great scenes of the French stud swimming and running around shirtless.

Meanwhile, Nora finds sex, if not love, in the arms of a smooth oncologist with a secret. Ojai Foods hits even harder times, even with the addition of a winery, but there might be one more William Walker secret that could save the day. By far the least interesting storyline involves Ryan (Luke Grimes), William Walker’s illegitimate son, and his quest for revenge against the Walkers. Not surprisingly, Grimes has been written out, and actually disappears without explanation toward the end of the season (much like the missing Cunningham brother on Happy Days or Bobby Martin on All My Children, who went up to the attic with his skis and was never seen again).

Brothers & Sisters has always been GLBT-friendly, tackling stories like gay marriage and Sol’s late-in-life coming out story, and Season Four is no exception. All of the Walkers are flawed, recognizable people you want to spend time with ... or at least share of bottle of wine. DVD extras include deleted scenes, bloopers and other off-screen features. Some family reunions aren’t worth attending, but Brothers & Sisters Season Four is definitely more fun than being stuck in the corner hearing about your Aunt Flossie’s Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.

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