Saturday, February 28, 2009

"Rachel Getting Married": classic realism cinema at its very best


Perhaps a lot of people seem to have missed this movie because of its title which most serious cinema-lovers will easily dismiss as "just another romantic pop corn comedy" -- which is actually the polar opposite of what the film is really about (I will come to that).

This is one movie which I will easily dare call a classic that also happens to celebrate humanity in its truest sense. A triumph for not only Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme's illustrious career but for universal cinema as a whole.

With Rachel Getting Married, Demme seems to have undergone a major personal transformation as well, in that he has become more humanist and wide-ranging in his world view.

The blend of so many ethnic groups, Caucasians, Blacks, Chinese, etc, along with unique ethnic features such as the donning of the Indian sari for the wedding ceremony and the incorporation of ethnic music, without any overt justification for its being there, demonstrates how far Demme has grown in his own humanity.

There are two scenes in the film which sent chills down my spine, brought tears to my eyes, and made me realise the wide gap of communication and misunderstanding between addicts and their non-addict family members.

I won't go into details and spoil the movie but that scene is when recovering addict Kym (acted brilliantly by Anne Hathaway) confronts her sister Rachel (another excellent performance by Rosemarie DeWitt) in the presence of their father (superbly played by Bill Irwin).

So many emotions were evoked in me and deep inside I was crying myself.

But perhaps the most disturbing scene in the film is when Hathaway finally confronts her mother (another classic performance by Debra Winger) and asks her the question which still haunts the family to this day; the question why a mother would ever leave an under-aged addict daughter high on drugs to babysit her little brother?

A kaleidoscope of emotions erupted and I think I too openly cried along with Hathaway and her mother.

This is one of the best and most realist films of last year. I am not surprised that it comes from Demme who made that brilliant psychological thriller about a cannibal, The Silence of the Lambs, one of the few films in movie history which won all the top 5 categories' Oscars: Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Actress.

And talking about the title of the film, I think though it might put off serious cinema lovers, when you really think about it, it's just the kind of non-assuming name that a humanist like Demme would give, rather than coming up with profound-sounding and sweeping names like "Pride and Glory" or "Body of Lies"! And even in the context of the movie itself, Rachel Getting Married is an appropriate name because the film shows events of a two-day period all taking place surrounding a wedding.

Rachel Getting Married on


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