Tired of hearing her leukemic daughter Kate (Sofia Vassilieva) whine about chemo-induced baldness, Sara Fitzgerald ( Cameron Diaz) storms off to the bathroom and soon emerges hairless. This act of solidarity may be overused in movies about the terminally ill, but it makes for a touching moment.
A few minutes later, however, Sara's silky blond tresses magically return. And that sums up "My Sister's Keeper," co-written by Jeremy Leven and director Nick Cassavetes (both of "The Notebook"). Based on Jodi Picoult's novel, the film captures the profound sorrow and grim realities of a dying child but also strikes the prettified tone of a sympathy card. Blood and vomit may flow, but there's no way a beauty like Diaz will go through this movie looking like Sinead O'Connor.
The film's title refers to 11-year-old Anna ( Abigail Breslin), conceived as a genetic match to donate body parts to Kate. But after years of painful poking and prodding, Anna ingeniously hires a smooth Los Angeles lawyer ( Alec Baldwin) to sue her parents for "medical emancipation." Sara vows to fight the suit, even as her husband ( Jason Patric) preaches reconciliation. A sympathetic judge ( Joan Cusack) adds a potential wrinkle to the lawsuit.
A surfeit of characters (Evan Ellingson plays the Fitzgeralds' neglected older son) keeps "My Sister's Keeper" from focusing properly on Kate. Even when a cute chemo survivor ( Thomas Dekker) awakens her sexuality, she remains a generic teenager defined by her condition.
The many deaths here are moving but also sudden and off-screen, which is to say, conveniently romantic. "My Sister's Keeper" is much like Sara's hair: beautifully smooth and selectively highlighted.