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SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELLING PANTS, THE

SYNOPSIS:
When four teenage girls discover a pair of jeans which magically fits them all despite their different shapes and sizes, they enter into a pact: after a week, each girl will mail the jeans onto the next, as a way of maintaining their friendship over the summer they are forced to spend apart. Over the period they are sharing the jeans, all four girls have life-changing experiences. Lena (Alexis Bledel) travels to a Greek island where she finds love despite the opposition of her family. Bridget (Blake Lively) attends a soccer camp in Mexico where she is fascinated by one of her coaches. Carmen (America Ferrara) goes to stay in the suburbs with her father, who is about to remarry. And Tibby (Amber Tamblyn) gets a job in a convenience store but while setting out to make a documentary, finds an unexpected friend.

Review by Jake Wilson:
Four teenage girls bond over a pair of jeans: it sounds awful and in places it is, at least for anyone who feels uncomfortable entering a world where clothes are crucial, boys are alluring but intimidating, and friendship is forever. Still, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is undeniably more substantial and less patronising than others in its junior chick-flick genre. There's an old-fashioned yet generous moral outlook at the heart of the script, based on Ann Brashares' book: while the major and minor characters are all familiar fictional types, none are made into scapegoats or hysterical cartoons. The aim is to celebrate friendship while providing girls with a range of smart, kind-hearted figures for identification - as calculated an approach as any other, but surely preferable to movies like What A Girl Wants that encourage the same viewers to embrace their inner bimbo. 

The biggest advantage is the handsome, unobtrusively witty direction by Ken Kwapis, with a very mobile camera and each subplot built around a clearly outlined but not too gimmicky visual idea. The wide beaches and soccer fields in the Mexico segment make an effective contrast with the steep perspectives offered by Lena's hillside Greek village; for Carmen's sojourn in suburbia, Kwakis uses rigid pastel images that suggest a parody of American Beauty, while Tibby's experiences as a store employee and budding documentary-maker are visualised in a lite-punk style with askew compositions and harshly bright colours (not surprisingly, the character is a fan of Avril Lavigne). 

The mood throughout is sunny and spacious - these girls literally have a world of possibilities to explore. Yet the multiple storylines run the gamut of heartwrenching experiences including love, death, and the fear of madness, with angst-ridden speeches on everything from the body shape of Puerto Rican girls to the meaning of life. The cues for viewers to start weeping are rarely subtle, but humour is never far away, and there are enough moments of hesitation and mixed feeling in the performances to redeem at least a few of the corny lines. Above all, what's striking is how directly the film speaks to a simple curiosity about emotion - the pleasure of trying different kinds of feelings out, always present but less openly acknowledged in most other genres, adult chick flicks included. Maybe boys, and grown-ups, could get something from this as well.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELLING PANTS, THE (PG)
(US, 2005)

CAST: Amber Tamblyn, Alexis Bledel, America Ferrara, Blake Lively, Jenna Boyd, Bradley Whitford, Nancy Travis

PRODUCER: Debra Martin Chase, Denise Di Novi, Broderick Johnso, Andrew A. Kosove,

DIRECTOR: Ken Kwapis

SCRIPT: Delia Ephron, Elizabeth Chandler (novel by Ann Brahsares)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Bailey

EDITOR: Kathryn Himoff

MUSIC: Cliff Eidelman

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Gae S. Buckley

RUNNING TIME: 119 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Vic & Qld: June 23, 2005. Other States June 30, 2005







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