Look, I knew what I was getting into when I plugged my headphones into the armrest on Delta flight 560 from St. Lucia to Atlanta. “My Sister’s Keeper,” starring Abigail Breslin and Cameron Diaz, is a classic weepie, the adaptation of Jodi Picoult’s novel about a troubled family whose younger daughter (Breslin) sues her parents for medical emancipation because they’ve been forcing her to donate bone marrow to her older, leukemic sister—and in fact only produced her (i.e., Breslin’s character) so she could provide spare parts for the sick one.
Anway, cue inter-generational arguments, death scenes, near-death scenes, hysteria, anger, reconciliation, teenage love, off-screen mortality, voice-over narration by every character in the movie (except for the epileptic-seizure-sensing dog owned by Alec Baldwin, who was extra-hammy as a lawyer), threats of divorce. It’s the kind of movie doesn’t just dare you to imagine yourself and your family in this terrible situation but pretty much forces it. How many minutes of guilt-ridden Oscar bait can anyone watch before asking themselves, “What would YOU do? What would YOU do?” (Answer: Seven minutes.)
And so I sat there in my aisle seat, eyes welling up, trying to dismiss each oncoming wave of blubbering with some ironic dismissal of the artificiality unfolding just above my head—and wondering when it was, exactly, that I became such a, a, a… pussy. (Now accepting nominations for a better word to describe easy-to-cry dad. “The tear jerk,” perhaps?) Was it when the kid was born? But haven’t I always been like this, despite my dedication to a life of cold rationality? Didn’t 10-year-old me cry during “Snoopy Come Home” on HBO? And 20-year-old me at the end of “Midnight Cowboy”? Shouldn’t I let myself tear up at 38,000 feet in economy class once in a while—like everyone else, apparently—and blame the triple cognacs I ordered at the end of the in-flight meal? What’s the harm in that?
Yes, yes, I know. Pussy.