Growing up before moviegoers' eyes, Abigail Breslin ("Little Miss Sunshine") and Georgie Henley ("The Chronicles of Narnia") enter true-crime territory as murderous siblings in the bumpy ride that is "Perfect Sisters."
The film owes whatever persuasiveness it has to the teen leads' sharp performances — their sisterly chemistry and their filial friction with an alcohol-addled mother, well played by Mira Sorvino.
Screenwriters Fabrizio Filippo and Adam Till draw upon the so-called Bathtub Girls — Canadian honor students whose trial for matricide grabbed headlines in the mid-2000s — to examine the months leading up to and following the crime. The openness of the high-schoolers' plotting gives the story a disorienting edge, as a seemingly offhand lunchroom remark morphs into full-fledged brainstorming with their friends on how best to kill Mom.
Sorvino plays Linda, a mess who can hold it together long enough to land but not keep a job. She also plays Perfect Mom, the fruit of her daughters' shared imagination. It's a stylistic leap that might have worked better if more of the movie were as bold.
Stanley M. Brooks, a longtime producer making his directing debut, succeeds only occasionally at blending social drama with dark comic elements. A number of small performances are strangely wooden, and James Russo plays Linda's latest abusive boyfriend with a charmlessness so blatant that it's distracting.
There are no false steps, though, from a full-tilt-vampy Breslin and a gothed-out Henley. Embodying an intense bond forged in a domestic horror show, they give their well-written dialogue a smart-girl sting, and they give the movie its truest and most scathing moments.
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Playing: Laemmle's NoHo 7, North Hollywood. Also on VODCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times