Sunday, October 05, 2008
I've been struggling with what to say about the film Rachel Getting Married. Anne Hathaway's performance was truly remarkable. And the film was very authentic, perhaps too authentic. It showed the life of a family as messy, struggling to be functional in the wake of a devastating tragedy that has left one family member an obvious wreck, and other family members with deep but less obvious scars. The film felt very real in conveying that. I'm just not sure that's what I want from a film. I like being rapt in a good story, or inspired by great characters, or transported to another place and time. This was more like watching someone else's home movies, if they were filmed by a videographer who occasionally opened up a door and walked in on a scene not meant to be seen, went unnoticed, and didn't turn away. In one part of the film, wedding guests fidget awkwardly as a sister's toast to the bride turns into disfunctional 12-step confessional. I felt that same kind of discomfort throughout the entire film, sometimes stronger, sometimes subtler, but never fully letting up. I can recall one awkward out-loud laugh (really more of a "she did not just say that, did she?" snort), but not really any comic relief. I suppose it would have been a different film if they'd gone for more traditional drama with moments of comic relief, but I think they were going for more of a cinéma vérité feel. The handheld camerawork gave it that feel, but was also a bit nauseous at times (especially those odd shots looking up from hip level). Hathaway was very convincing, and Bill Irwin and Rosemarie DeWitt give strong performances too. While I was watching it, I found Rachel's character a bit disjointed (she loves her sister, she hates her sister, she loves her again), although on reflection I suppose real life can be like that, especially in the inner lives of families. The film, in its authentic, unhurried and haphazard pace, reveals some powerful emotional history in the family. There are some great dramatic moments (in amidst the wedding "home movie"). And it feels very emotionally authentic. But I also wonder what it has to say to people who are experiencing difficult recoveries, but don't have as crucial and concise an emotional backstory to explain themselves. If you'd like to see a realistic view of a disfunctional family over an eventful weekend (a glimpse of what "reality TV" might be like if it weren't so heavily manipulated), then this is a great film. I'm just not sure it's what I want on a Saturday night.