Saturday, October 25, 2008

Rachel Getting Married, second viewing

As it is one of my favorite films of the year, I paid to see Rachel Getting Married for the second time. These are some thoughts and things that I noted on the second viewing. I'm not sure if there will be spoilers, exactly, but there almost definitely will be some stuff in here that you might not want to know ahead of time if you haven't seen it.

1) It's an interesting question that some are asking: Who is better in the film - Anne Hathaway as the drug addict drama queen Kym or Rosemarie DeWitt as the quietly good daughter Rachel? There's been some disagreement about this topic, as some critics have favored DeWitt. On second viewing, I was more impressed by DeWitt than I had been the first time. Yet I think often, critics assume the less showy role is the more difficult and better acted. That's certainly true in a good number of cases, Demme's The Silence of the Lambs possibly being one example. I also think that it flatters critics to believe that, because it meams that critics are the keepers of some secret knowledge that only they can discern.

All that said, I still think Hathaway's is the film's true blow-away performance. It's the tougher role. It has much more range than simply uptight, upset sister. It requires and achieves sympathy where one might not expect it. And it simply lights up the screen.

2) At the beginning, as Kym and her nurse are walking to the car, Kym says something like, "You're not even going to give me your number?" The nurse answers, "That was one time and it was a mistake. I nearly lost my job for that." And of course, at the end of the film, the nurse picks up Kym and takes her off, presumably back to rehab.

Over on IMDb, that exchange has provoked a mini-contoversy with different interpretations. Some take the conversation to mean that the nurse had previously given Kym, a patient, personal contact information in violation of the institutional rules. But some think it's a reference to a sexual encounter, and that perhaps at the end, she isn't going back to rehab, but she is sneaking off from the family to be with the nurse.

I have to say, the sexual interpretation crossed my mind on this viewing. In the end, I think the evidence is against it. There's the obvious stuff ... Kym's sexual encounter with the best man and their farewell snogging at the end. But also, when they load Kym's stuff into the nurse's car, the nurse has a baby stroller in the trunk. And presumably, given the automobile wreck, Kym would need a lift back to rehab. So I think the non-sexual interpretation is the best interpretation. An interesting question, though.

3) In the post-rehearsal-speech argument, as Rachel, Kym and Dad head off into another room to continue their fight, there's a great little moment where step-mom Carol and fiance Sidney give each other a look that says, "Can you believe we're marrying into this?" Very subtle, but watch for it next time.

4) I'm not sure what to make of Kym's attachment to her dog, Olive. Perhaps it's the only family member from whom she feels only love and no tension. A reminder of an innocent time? A reminder of her brother?

5) One of the reasons that I go to a second viewing is to sample an audience reaction to a film I saw in a theater with seven film critics. It always amazes me how things I might find really funny fly over the audience's head, while something I find dramatic might seem comic. One example here is at the moment when Rachel reveals she's pregnant in the middle of a fight with Kym, and Kyn tells her that it isn't fair to reveal that sort of thing in the middle of a fight. I thought it was clearly a tense moment. The audience laughed. And it is kind of funny, looked at in a certain dark way.

6) How is it that if you want to watch an Anne Hathaway movie on Saturday night in Dallas-Fort Worth, the nation's fourth or fifth lagrest metro area, it's easier to find Passengers, the Hathaway film Sony is trying to bury, than it is to find Rachel, the film Sony Pictures Classics is trying to promote? This has got to be the most agonizingly slow platform release in history. HEck, it would be a shorter trip to go see Get Smart at the dollar theater for a buck-fifty, The good news is that the theater I was in was nearly full, with the movie showing on two screens in its second weekend. Impressive.


Sam Juliano said...

very astute observation on several instance in the film, the performances and audience reaction. De Witt was excellent, but methinks you are right to say Hathaway is tops. In fact it's one of the year's strongest performances in any category.

Nice piece here.

Evan Derrick said...

I skipped all of this as I'm seeing a screening of it later this morning. One of your favorite movies of the year, huh? I'm quite looking forward to it, and I'll be back after I've finished my own piece.

Daniel Getahun said...

Great thoughts - you must know by now that I didn't like the film, but did find it mostly well made.

Wow, I gave no consideration to the sexual encounter theory. I always thought it was the first interpretation - like you said, nothing otherwise makes sense within the context of the story. If it were a sexual thing I think that would have been flushed out more in Rachel's character at some point.