Aiming for an edgy blend of the classic and the contemporary à la Julie Taymor, The Sistersplaywright-screenwriter Richard Alfieri's inexplicable haircut of Three Sisters, first produced at the Pasadena Playhouseis a clumsy graft of Chekhovian high dudgeon and harsh, Albee-esque psychological realism that probably worked better onstage. Alfieri transforms Chekhov's bored Muscovite bourgies into a repressed, Southern-gothic clan with a Lifetime-style Dark Secret, then turns them loose to let the froth fly in a mythical Upper Manhattan university faculty lounge. The director, TV and stage vet Arthur Allan Seidelman, keeps things moving briskly enough (the most you can hope for with a filmed play), and the game cast membersranging from an over-enunciating, unconvincing Maria Bello to the surprisingly subtle Tony Goldwyndo what they can with the bombastic dialogue. Chekhov's theme of the clash of nostalgic expectations with adult realities remains intact, but Alfieri's flip-flopped dynamicurban transplants longing for a faded rural idyllis so undercooked as to strip the story of social or personal significance. What's left is a series of fraught confrontations that are more shrill than insightful or wrenching.
Get the Film & TV Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.