My Sister’s Kidney

Don’t read this if you don’t want the end of the book/movie to be spoiled, pets. There, I warned you!

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult is one of my favourite books. It’s exciting, interesting, heartbreaking and surprising. They have made several Jodi Picoult books into bad Lifetime movies, which I have watched, but My Sister’s Keeper is the first they have made into a real, honest-to-goodness, starring-some-celebrities movie.

I saw it on Tuesday night. I was not impressed. The Lifetime movies may be cheesy, but at least they get the story right.

My Sister’s Keeper (or My Sister’s Kidney as my sister likes to call it) is the story of an eleven year old girl, Anna, who wants to sue her parents for medical emancipation. Her parents had two children, Jesse and Kate, when they found out that Kate had leukemia. Their doctor suggests they have a third child, made in a test tube to be a genetic match to Kate so that they can use the cord blood against the leukemia. Since then, Anna has donated bone marrow, platelets, blood, etc to her sister in the fight against cancer. Now, Kate’s kidneys have failed and they want Anna to give her a kidney. Anna, who never would have existed if Kate wasn’t sick, resents this.

The whole thing is a delightful courtroom-style drama, as most Jodi Picoult’s are. You’re always left wondering who really is right - there never seems to be an easy answer or a side to choose. On one hand, you feel for Anna and the incredible injustice she’s been through since a young age. On the other hand, Kate will die without a kidney so you feel Anna should just give it to her. And like all of Picoult’s books there are many more layers - the lawyer’s epilepsy, the father’s Catholicism, the ethical issue of genetically engineered babies, the general dysfunction of the family.

The movie had none of these layers.

This movie was made to make you cry. Seriously, you could see when they were about to hold a long emotional shot, play some sappy music or slow down the action. And it worked. The theatre was full of women (and two men) and quite a few of them were literally sobbing. Loudly. I even had a tear in my eye, and it takes quite a lot to get me to cry in public.

But that’s all it was. A sob-fest. It wasn’t deep or meaningful. And the thing that had made me saddest in the book - the unfairness of Anna’s situation - that was hardly in it. They focused, instead, on Kate and her cancer. Without Anna’s point of view, it’s just another sob story about a kid with cancer. We’ve seen it all before.

And last but certainly not least - they got the ending wrong.

The end of the book is painful. Anna wins the court case, becomes medically emancipated from her parents. She’s in the car with her lawyer afterwards, when he has a epiletic seizure (nevermind that they don’t let epiletics drive). The car crashes and Anna is fatally injured. They take her to the hospital, where her sister is near death in the cancer ward. The lawyer tells the doctors the story, and signs the papers for them to take Anna’s kidney afterall and give it to Kate. Miraculously, Kate lives and recovers completely after this.


In the movie, however, Kate dies predictably and Anna grows up to tell the story.

I was severely disappointed with this adaptation. Abigail Breslin was good,  Sofia Vassilieva was too. Cameron Diaz was predictably annoying, but it wasn’t the acting that got me. It was the plot. I’d rather watch the Lifetime movies. Plain Truth, with Mariska Hargitay, is actually kind of good.


  • By Jes, July 9, 2009 @ 8:46 am

    Every review i’ve read about this movie says that exact same thing. Soooo ya, not too keen on seeing it.

  • By Kristen, July 9, 2009 @ 10:09 pm

    Love the new blog! Not sure when you changed it but it looks awesome!

  • By Faebala, July 10, 2009 @ 12:53 pm

    Yeah, I’ll admit I cried. But the movie wasn’t good for much other than that. I liked Anna, because I think she did a good job of keeping the character like the book. But that’s about it. Every other character sucked. I really liked the dad in the book… and there was nothing to like about him in this movie, him and his strange desire to dress like a 20-year-old volleyball player.

    I hate Cameron Diaz with a passion. And I really like Campbell Alexander’s character, but I hate Alec Baldwin and there was no point in putting his epilepsy in the movie if they then took out every other single thing about him. Like, his kid. And his assistant, who I really love in the book, what was her name.. Selena? (Although I can’t remember if she was in My Sister’s Keeper or The Pact.)

    And the took out everything that made you feel for Jesse, and his total fucked-up ness that got ignored.

    And the whole jumping around thing confused me, let alone people who HAVEN’T read the book.

    And the random family members in that scene at the end, right before Kate dies?? They had no point either, except to make that scene awkward and drawn out and talk like Rainman. “Definitely, pizza. Yeah, definitely. Definitely.”

  • By Gillian, July 11, 2009 @ 11:47 am

    Okay, so I haven’t read the book or seen the movie but I’m going to make judgments anyway. ;)

    See, reading about the ending of the book, I don’t know if (for me) that’s any better than the ending of the movie. It just seems needlessly sad and cruel, to end a book like that. Could it happen, yeah, sure… but reading how her kidney ends up being donated to her sister, it sounds like Anna’s death doesn’t serve a point other than the author to say, look how sad this is! The heart-wrenching choices Anna made don’t really matter in the end because then she dies, and her kidney goes to her sister anyway. (It seems a bit like punishment for Anna daring to make decisions about her own body) It also seems like it would negate most of what happened in the book before, because then you can’t really feel ambivalent about Anna, because you now have to care because she dies.

    For me, a better ending would be that Anna has to live with her decision, knowing her sister might die because of it. There’s realistic sadness, and there’s the form of ‘grief porn’, like the Lurlene McDaniel books, where the grief about dying is exploited as a shortcut for caring about the characters and making it ‘deep and meaningful’, rather than let people form their own conclusions. It seems like both the movie and the book follow that convention in the end.

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