You’d be hard pressed to find as engaging a kid as Grace Kaufman in David Lascher’s “Sister.” She’s the kind of little knockout that Dakota and Elle Fanning, Abigail Breslin, and Shirley Temple were in their day. When “Sister” played at the Tribeca Film Festival on Friday night, it was Kaufman who busy stealing the spotlight from “Veep” star Reid Scott and the always exceptional Barbara Hershey.
David Lascher co-wrote (with Todd Camhe) and directed this first feature about a mildly successful actor, 30ish, in L.A. who suddenly has to care for a child (Kaufman) his parents adopted late in life. The story is a little autobiographical. Lascher, 40, appeared in a lot of teen TV series like “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” and “Hey Dude” in the mid 90s. He knows the layout of the land pretty well, which makes the inside Hollywood stuff all too real. His “Sabrina” co-star, Caroline Rhea, the comedian, showed up to lend support on Friday night.
You’d think “Sister” would be formulaic, but it rises above the usual with some complications: Scott, who plays the sarcastically venal wannabe campaign manager Dan on “Veep” so well brings a real edge to the Peter Pan-ish Billy. He has almost no use for his widowed, manic depressive mother (Hershey, in a really nice turn). She wasn’t much of a mother to him and she hasn’t been so good for the late in life adopted child.
There’s nothing wrong with what is called, sometimes disparagingly, a “Lifetime movie,” if it’s surprisingly good. Is there such a thing as an “indie Lifetime” movie? Yes. “Sister” is certainly that, which means I could see it on IFC or Sundance, and on video on demand. Scott jumps out of “Veep” a notch with “Sister” and Kaufman should be working around the clock once casting directors see her.