Sister Aimee, written and directed by Samantha Buck and Marie Schlingmann, is a new comedy inspired by a true story so bizarre that it is almost unbelievable. Witty, charming, and very well-made, this light but cynical comedy is exactly the reprieve that audiences need in this time in which everything seems to be taking itself too seriously.
The film tells the story of Sister Aimee Semple McPherson, a famous evangelist from the 1920’s who was the victim of a kidnapping… reportedly. The movie instead proposes that McPherson faked her disappearance in order to pursue a tryst and hoping to living a normal life. Although there is a lot of speculation involved in the storyline (the case against McPherson for fabricating her disappearance was eventually dropped), this alternate take on history is unique and creative.
The arc of the film is similar to that of the average road movie, but the stranger than fiction twist makes it stand out. Since the movie does take liberties with the story, it isn’t as predictable as most films based on real-life people. There is a certain amount of predictability in that the ending is expected, but one never knows what to expect from everything in between.
McPherson has an extremely interesting arc. Although someone who is faking their disappearance may not seem like the most approachable protagonist, the movie does a great job of developing her over the course of the film. Most viewers will not identify directly with her actions, but many will understand her longing to start anew.
One of the main themes addressed by the movie is the danger of the spotlight. Although McPherson’s backstage personality is obviously exaggerated to some extent, this is used to satirize how the additional attention brought about by McPherson’s extremely public lifestyle affected her psyche. Every single thing that she did was scrutinized in intense detail, and as the film proposes, this is what caused her to break.
Anna Margaret Hollyman is hilarious in her performance as McPherson. Her delivery is one of the main reasons why the character ends up being so charming. Hollyman leans into the inherent absurdity of the premise, but is also able to ground the movie because of her excellent emotional range. The supporting cast is strong too, including turns from Michael Mosley and Macon Blair, but even they are outshone by Hollyman.
On a technical level, the film does an excellent job of capturing the mid-1920s feel in which the movie took place. The cinematography and production design are both extremely immersive and frequently beautiful. The film has an old-school class about it, which works quite well given the fact that it is set towards the end of the Roaring Twenties.
Sister Aimee is a hilarious movie thanks to an insane story and witty dialogue. All-around impressive, this is a hidden gem that deserves to not slip under the radar.
Sister Aimee opens in theaters on September 27 and hits VOD on October 1.