June 04, 2005

MOVIES: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Ken Kwapis, 2005)

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is based on a novel by Ann Brashares that has been wildly popular with teenage girls for the last few years. The movie, directed by Ken Kwapis, is occasionally a bit too syrupy and its lessons are pounded home awfully hard, but it benefits from having four fine young actresses in its leading roles.

Carmen, Lena, Tibby, and Bridget (played by, respectively, America Ferrera, Alexis Bledel, Amber Tamblyn, and newcomer Blake Lively) have been best friends since childhood, and they are enjoying their last shopping trip together before they all go off on their separate summer vacations. They find a pair of jeans which miraculously fits all of them perfectly, despite their different body types and sizes, and decide to share these magical pants, mailing them back and forth at weekly intervals.

The movie is essentially an anthology; each girl's story is mostly separate from the others, though they do provide one another with encouragement through phone calls and letters. The structure works well; none of the stories would be substantial enough to sustain a movie on its own, and anytime any of the stories threatens to get dull, we're whisked away to a different girl.

One of the striking things about the movie is that, unlike many of the teen-girl movies of recent years, none of the girls are pitted against one another (or against other girls, for that matter); the conflicts are principally internal. Lena begins to come out of her shell; Carmen finally expresses her anger to her father, who left her mother; and so on. (There is one brief argument between two of the girls, but it's clearly the result of emotional stress, and quickly resolved.)

The four lead actresses are all well cast; Tamblyn and Bledel are particularly good (and my lord, Alexis Bledel is a lovely young woman). The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is a lightweight charmer, and while its messages of female empowerment and solidarity will no doubt resonate with teenage girls, it's a good enough movie that you'll enjoy it even you're not part of that audience.

No comments: