Thursday, November 13, 2008

I’d Marry Rachel and Her Crazy Sister, Too.

I hate to follow-up so quickly with my previous post, but I finally saw Rachel Getting Married and wanted to get all of my random thoughts down while this film’s still fresh on my mind.

Rachel is such a contrast to Changeling. Where Straczynski seemed to be more interested in historical accuracy, Jenny Lumet has the heart of a dramatist. Her characters come first. While Straczynski’s characters seemed cold and aloof at times, Lumet’s characters just burst to life and they’re so true and vivid (and full of needs and deception).

In fact, here’s a scene from the very beginning when Kym is picked up from rehab by her father and step-mother.

It’s interesting to note that Jenny Lumet wrote an unsympathetic protagonist in Kym (Anne Hathaway). There’s no other way to describe her. She’s a tornado of emotions and drama, and she’s not exactly likeable. But this kind of character is certainly recognizable to us. We know people like her, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we’d want to move in with her. This is not sympathy with a goal but rather a character with depth going through a tough transition in her life. Is there anything wrong with that? I don’t think so. In fact, this reminds me of
Away From Her, another film I loved and wrote about.

But Rachel works, because Kym, with all of her faults, is surrounded by a range of sympathetic characters trying to cope with this difficult situation and we can relate to that. (This kind of story design is not new. I’m reminded of Mozart and his
Diabolical Don G.) Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have all this drama surrounding a wedding, an occasion which evokes in and of itself the happiest feelings of love. But I’ve always believed that we are more satisfied by depth in protags than flat sympathy with a goal. Consider the opening fifteen minutes of Rachel and all the ways Lumet aims to show depth in Kym. We are given so many sides to her character – anticipation, anxiety, strength, weakness, rebellion, obedience, fear, courage, love, hate, tension, relief, and probably a dozen other emotions I failed to mention. That’s great stuff. That keeps you watching (and entertained).

Of course, Kym can be quite grating at times. She is self-centered. She is a drama queen. She may even be bi-polar. But Lumet’s point seems to be more about making us understand the sources of pain, which has a great social value. It’s so easy to hate people who are mean-spirited and selfish and think of them in inhuman terms like “freak” and reject them. But with Lumet, she helps us to understand and there’s value in that. There are no easy resolutions to these kinds of problems and once the wedding is over, the film thankfully, didn’t dip into so many clichés. There’s no closure. You know that Kym’s trials and tribulations will not end with her sister's wedding, and that’s true to life. Isn’t drama supposed to be about holding a mirror up to life?

I also want to mention that I admired the way Lumet kept the conflicts interesting. When two characters are going at it and the argument almost feels like it’s going on too long, Lumet reveals something new to keep the plot progressing forward. Nothing’s ever quite what it seems. That’s a good dramatist. I loved that about Jenny’s writing and would love to see more of her work.

Any criticisms? Yeah, a few. I don’t think the scenes between Kym and her mom really worked. That was the only time the conflicts felt forced and a bit contrived. The ending to the dishwasher showdown seemed forced to me. The ending (and who Kym leaves with) came out of nowhere to me and I’m not sure was the best choice. I’m also not quite sure how the multi-cultural wedding supported the theme or Kym’s story. If anything, there were too many scenes of celebration and partying to the detriment of story. While these are minor complaints and I love the film, I’m not sure it’s worthy of an Oscar.

Jenny Lumet is still fabulous.



Christina said...

That's a great review! I am looking forward to seeing it myself. I love movies about complicated people. Loved Sideways because both of the guys were so messed up and also so believable.

From the little I know of Rachel, it sounds like Jenny Lumet did depict a bipolar character. Did you see Margot at the Wedding? In that movie, Noah Baumbach definitely creates a textbook case of borderline personality disorder in the character of Margot. I thought the movie was well done and felt like a French drama.

The Pearl Poet said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lisa said...

Hey MM - is this screenplay posted anywhere yet for our reading pleasure?

Mystery Man said...

Christina - One other thing I failed to mention. There was a lot of talk about where Kym sits at the reception and I don't believe we ever saw how that played out. Oh, wait, come to think of it, they may have taken away all the tables and everyone stood as they ate. I'd have to see that again. I read or heard somewhere Jenny saying that at times the camera is the eyes of the young dead brother watching the family. Knowing that going into the film made it quite a different experience. I did not see Margot, but that's in my netflix queue.

Lisa - I don't believe so, but I suspect it will be. I suspect this will be available soon on a "For Your Consideration" page. I'll definitely post a link when I learn about it.


Deaf Brown Trash Punk said...

Anne Hathway is underrated and needs to be given more serious acting roles like that. I am disappointed that she has signed on to do more shitty rom-coms.

I haven't seen Rachel yet, but the movie looks so damn good.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I also thought Rachel Getting Married was a fantastic movie- a refreshing change from the action-packed spectacles or middle-school humor that dominates in major movies today.

My only quibble would be two spots where I felt it really dragged: the rehearsal dinner and the wedding party. A few of those toasts could have been omitted, as could some of the partying scenes.

I actually liked the scene between Rachel and her mother, although some of the dialogue could have been adjusted a little so that the rising tension in that scene made more sense (I think I got what was supposed to be happening, but still).

Overall, though, this looks like a movie for my DVD collection once it comes out!


Anonymous said...

My top 3 movies of the year so far: RACHEL GETTING MARRIED, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, and THE DARK KNIGHT.

-Mike Le

Mystery Man said...

deaf - Anne really does. I'll tell her you said that. Hehehe...

Eve - I completely agree about those two spots that dragged. I felt it, too! I think the thing that bothered me about the confrontation between Kym and her mother was how quickly it escalated into a fistfight. But I don't know. I'll have to look at it again. Thanks for the comments. So very nice to meet you.

Mike - I just missed a chance to see "Let the Right One In." I CAN'T WAIT to see that one. I'm also looking forward to "Slumdog Millionaire" and "A Christmas Tale." The best films for me this year have been foreign film classics I haven't seen like the films of Jean-Pierre Melville and Kurosawa. Gonna write articles about them soon.


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