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Oct 18, 2008

Fletch's Film Review: Rachel Getting Married

Was it live, or was it Memorex? That's what you might be asking yourself after seeing Rachel Getting Married, the latest from director Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia). After a slump of features, including The Manchurian Candidate and The Truth About Charlie, Demme has gone simple on us. Rachel is presented in verite form, almost documentary-like as it follows Kym (Anne Hathaway) as she leaves rehab to attend her sister's wedding in rural Connecticut.

There's plenty of drama and character development to be found but little plot. Over the course of two hours, we learn what sent Kym on her downward spiral and how it affected those around her, but the film is not interested in giving the audience any sort of closure or resolution. It says "here's this slice of life; take it or leave it."

As I write this, I still don't know what my rating will be - I'm torn completely. It's the kind of movie that's a pleasure to experience - a large, beautiful house, a lush wedding, eclectic music playing nonstop, and top-notch acting are all present. However, as I sat staring, I thought to myself, "It's not our freedom; it's this kind of movie that the terrorists hate us for." An odd thought, to be sure. But what else can be made of this film that's largely about nothing and centers on an upper-middle class white Connecticut family that, while they've surely gone through hard times, spend all their time being angry for what they don't have rather than celebrating what they do? Poor Kym was a druggie that did a terrible thing - get over it! This was made all the worse when I read a summary of the film and learned that this act of hers took place 10 years prior to the events in the film (it was somewhat unclear how long it had been while watching; I would have guessed three).

At times, though, Demme goes too simple on us. There's about a ten-minute stretch during the wedding's reception where you might wonder, "Am I still watching a film or am I watching someone's homemade wedding video?" There's literally no plot movement or dialogue as we watch what appears to be every guest getting their own dance sequence. Still, I can't complain too much - the music, though almost annoyingly nonstop (to the characters as well), is varied and terrific. the wedding is an Indian-themed affair featuring a white woman and a black man, and we get a taste of those and many other cultures. Though the film at times dips into "United Colors of Benetton" mode with its diversity, it was refreshing to see and a joy to experience nonetheless.

And about that lush wedding - I wonder if the irony struck the cast and crew that the film's wedding might have cost more in real life than it cost them to make the film?

Fletch's Film Rating:

"Darn tootin!"


6 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Film Review: Rachel Getting Married"

JOSEPH CAMPANELLA said...

This hand held camera stuff is getting old, no?

I'll still see it though. Anne Hathaway is gorgeous.

nick plowman said...

Ugh, can’t wait to see this already. I think it opens in SA in March next year or something equally disgusting.

Daniel Getahun said...

Finally, I arrive.

Great review, really. Somehow we both ended up mostly railing this movie but admitting that our dislike (mine more than yours) for it doesn't necessarily mean it's bad.

Aside from the great point you make about the length of the grieving period (and the wedding scene - seriously, way too long), I also found myself unsympathetic to the characters because they seemed to bring it all on themselves. Maybe a little cold for me to say that, but I think that's why i wasn't moved by their sorrow.

Fletch said...

Joseph - yep, how real can film be? It's still film! Hand-held can be wildly effective if used sparingly or set up as the angle for a film (eg Cloverfield), but I'm sick of it, and Mrs. Fletch, who gets motion sickness, is much, much more so.

Nick - yea, it's a small film on almost all counts. Not too surprised, though that sucks for you. :(

Dan - Muchas gracias. I was thinking I missed your review (since you always seem to see everything days, if not weeks, before me), but I've now seen it.

Like you, I think I wanted to like it more than I did. Not a bad film at all, but hard to give an enthusiastic recommendation for.

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