Bittersweet comedy compensates for some third-act weaknesses in its overly loose script with simpatico playing from a name distaff cast and dry dialogue that keeps the tone light.

Three sisters find that not much goes “According to Plan” as they assemble to celebrate their alkie mom’s birthday in their native Saxony village. Bittersweet comedy by helmer Franziska Meletzky, following her impressive 2004 graduation film, “Wanted!,” compensates for some third-act weaknesses in its overly loose script with simpatico playing from a name distaff cast, led by the feisty Dagmar Manzel, and dry dialogue that keeps the tone light. A good bet for film weeks and Euro tube play, pic opened modestly in Germany in early March.

It’s summertime in the small burg of Wettin (northwest of Meletzky’s native Leipzig), where divorced Silvia (Christine Schorn), who runs the local amateur theatrical troupe when she’s not hitting the bottle, lives with her long-suffering eldest daughter, Iris (Corinna Harfouch). Across the way lives Silvia’s upbeat youngest daughter, Marianne (Kirsten Block), with teen son Tobi (Robert Kersten) and unemployed, working-class hubby Martin (Robert Gallinowski).

Unmarried Iris, who has a job in a stable, is literally the workhorse of the family, putting up with her mom’s tipsy turns and having no personal life of her own. Into this picturesque but strained environment arrives Silvia’s long-lost middle daughter, Anne (Manzel), an energetic rebel who left home years ago to be a rock singer.

As soon as Anne hits the sleepy village, she and Martin can’t keep their hands off each other. Next to arrive for the surprise family gathering is the daughters’ insouciant father (Otto Mellies), with a young, narcoleptic g.f. (Simone Kabst) in tow. By the day of Silvia’s birthday party in the town hall, Iris is desperately trying to hold everything together while still trying to deal with her long-simmering attraction to a local guy.

Peachiest part goes to Manzel (the terrific co-lead in lesbian drama “Wanted!”) as the colorful middle-aged rebel who’s actually the closest to being a chip off the old block. Though pic is more heightened slice-of-life than outright farce, the tempo clicks into allegro when she’s onscreen. Still, the chemistry among the four lead actresses is neatly balanced, with Harfouch downplaying the devoted Iris and Block nicely filling in the emotional ground between her and Anne as the model hausfrau.

After the fine first two acts, writer Elke Roessler seems unsure where to take the characters during the final reels, settling for a wistful, open ending with a touch of the unreal. Tech package is pro and at the service of the cast, with no unnecessary directorial flourishes. Pic is also known under the much better English title “Plan B.”

According to Plan

Germany

Production

A Novapool Pictures release of a Credofilm production, in association with RBB, MDR. (International sales: MDC Intl., Berlin.) Produced by Susann Schimk, Joerg Trentmann. Directed by Franziska Meletzky. Screenplay, Elke Roessler.

Crew

Camera (color), Ngo The Chau; editor, Juergen Winkelblech; music, Eike Hosenfeld, Moritz Denis; art director, Susanne Abel; costume designer, Annemarie Laber; sound (Dolby Digital), Matthias Richter, Holger Lehmann; assistant director, Matthias Junge; casting, Karen Wendland. Reviewed on DVD, London, March 3, 2008. Running time: 95 MIN.

With

Kirsten Block, Dagmar Manzel, Corinna Harfouch, Christine Schorn, Robert Gallinowski, Otto Mellies, Simone Kabst, Robert Kersten, Ramona Libnow, Matthias Brenner.

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