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October 6, 2008


Rachel Getting Married: Jonathan Demme's still got it

Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married

In a Time Out NY story on his new movie Rachel Getting Married, Jonathan Demme said, sort of incredibly, that the script by Jenny Lumet and the chance to work with Anne Hathaway were the only things that got him to take a break from making documentaries to do a fictional movie. I was surprised when I read that last week, but after watching the movie this weekend, I see what he meant.

This is Jenny Lumet's first screenplay, and it deals with subject matter that is almost impossible to make palatable. Privileged people complaining about their oh-so-difficult lives and alternating between emotionally manipulating each other and screaming at each other-- it's hard to make that stuff anything other than grating.

Jonathan Demme has enough experience to wind through a minefield of drug addiction, co-dependency, and self-pity, set against a backdrop of a rich family having a big multi-culti party that involves white people wearing saris and dancing to samba, and still end up with characters that the audience can relate to. Somehow it all works. It also helps that the characters have been through a lot that we don't learn about right away.

Another potentially tricky aspect of the movie is how it deals with race. There are layers of harmonious, maybe idealistic, racial blending in the movie that don't feel forced at all, which may be helped by Jenny Lumet's own multiracial background (her father is famous director Sidney Lumet, and her mother is Gail Lumet Buckley, a black writer and daugher of Lena Horne.) Sidney Lumet hasn't done anything as good as his stuff from the 70's and 80's, but Jonathan Demme can still make a great movie, which is good, since things were looking pretty bleak around The Truth About Charlie.

The best parts were the long, rambling, Robert Altman-like ensemble scenes, like the scene at the rehearsal dinner where it seems like every single character has a toast to make, but it was so authentic I could have watched it roll on all night. All of the actors are great, especially Anna Deveare Smith, who also does a lot of stuff on Broadway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Debra Winger, and Anne Hathaway. The girl's got chops.

The music is great, too. All the music in the movie is diegetic, a ten dollar word I learned just for this movie which means that we only hear music that the characters can also hear. Luckily, because the movie takes place around a wedding, there's loads of music that the characters and the audience all get to hear, including a surprise performance by my old teenage favorite Robyn Hitchcock, (also the subject of Demme's Storefront Hitchcock concert movie) doing his song "America" with the wedding band [photo]. Tunde Adebimpe, the singer from TV On The Radio, plays the groom, and has a really nice musical interlude.

Rachel Getting Married is only playing at 9 theaters now, but it made over $30,000 per screen, which is about what the first Spider-Man made when it debuted. At the Regal theater at Union Square, the line to get into the theater looked like Iron Man's opening weekend. It'll probably do well, which is good for Jonathan Demme. Did you know he's directed 7 different actors in performances that were nominated for Oscars, and 4 who won? He's probably going to get a couple more in this one.

categories: Movies
posted by amy at 2:50 PM | #

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