Monday, December 15, 2008

Rachel Getting Married Review

Overall Grade: A-

Rachel Getting Married is a breath of fresh air in the 2008 film landscape. After watching so many disappointing or merely satisfying films, Rachel Getting Married (which shall now be refereed to as RGM) literally re-invigorated my interest and hope for the remaining films of 2008. RGM is an intimate and brutally honest film that works as a modern day Ordinary People.

Our lead in the film is oddly enough not named Rachel, but Kym. She is played excellently by Anne Hathaway and is the sister to our title character Rachel (who if you didn't guess it, is getting married). The film begins with Kym just getting out of rehab (for reasons best revealed by the movie) in order to attend Rachel’s wedding for the weekend. What follows is an entire weekend of wedding activities, including the wedding itself, and then the eventual goodbyes. What makes the film work so well for me is the way in which we (the viewer) are allowed to watch Kym interact with her family and friends. We are able to glean (as each conversation reveals more and more) past histories, and present conflicts. It’s a fascinating watch and one that reminded me of Robert Altman’s Gosford Park in its ability to naturally introduce an entire ensemble of fully realized characters.

The film is shot by handheld camera (in what seems to be every shot) giving the viewer a literal feeling of watching our characters through home movies. One would seem to get the sense that the handheld camera would give us the position of the causal observer, something akin to being a cinematic voyeur. This isn’t actually what takes place. Rather than placing the camera in neutral positions to allow us to observe the events, the camera operates with omnipotence, diving the emotion or truth of each scene and supplying us with the appropriate shot. There is one scene in particular where Hathaway’s Kym is confronted in a hair salon. Her confronter is in almost complete close-up and speaks so brazenly honest and confident to her, that I squirmed along with Kym. Rather than an observer to this families conflicts and dilemmas, I felt completely engrossed and found myself questioning how I would act in their circumstances. What more could a viewer ask for?

I’m reminded of how the director Jonathan Demme in his film Silence of the Lambs wisely made use of straight on camera shots. Several of the scenes in Lambs consisted of us looking directly at Foster or Hopkins, while they looked nearly directly in the camera. It fit perfectly the idea of objectification that was so crucial to the central themes of Lambs. The camera is no less truthful here, and its matched in truthfullness by the screenplay, and the natural performances (Rosemarie Dewitt and Bill Irwin are great). It has been a long time since I felt a family drama feel so honest and truthful, and much of that comes from the well-roundedness of the characters. Kym (a troubled problem child all her life) presents her family with difficult decisions. It’s her big sister’s big wedding weekend, but can they really focus on Rachel when Kym is out of rehab and making scenes and building tension with family everywhere? How Kym’s entire family responds to her features such honesty, that it brought me to tears several times.

I wholeheartedly recommend this film, but there are a couple reservations. You should be warned that the film does tend to linger a bit in scenes and can be slightly melodramatic at points. I felt as though the last twenty-five minutes of the film could’ve been trimmed dramatically without much loss as well. While maybe RGM isn't the types of stories that I seek out, or typically pop into my DVD player for re-watches, RGM is a fantastic film, filled with great performances, and great rewards for those willing to engage with this family and the questions they deal with it.

1 comments:

8rent said...

The shooting techniques sound a lot like Frankenheimer's, a la the original Manchurian Candidate.

I was wondering about this movie, sounds like a solid rental. Nice review.

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