Thursday, March 26, 2009
RACHEL GETTING MARRIED
It has become somewhat fashionable to confuse nihilism with realism and to credit shallow filmmakers with depth merely because their themes are resoundingly negative. It's a cynical conceit which equates hope with naivete. Jonathan Demme has often been attacked as naive for the supposed la-la land of liberalness he depicts onscreen. Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, Asians, Gays, Straights, Bush, Obama; everyone is invited to his Starship Enterprise with open arms. The truth lies less in Demme's perceived naivete than in the childish cynicism of his critics. It's cynical to believe that people can never see the humanity in others beyond their social or cultural differences. Demme has never made a film in which these differences were ignored, in fact, they are most often celebrated. Not since the great Jean Renoir has there been a filmmaker more inclined to allow everyone to "have their reasons." In Demme's cinematic world, there are no heroes, no villains, no simple right or wrong and there is nothing naive about that. Amidst the worst of human impulses and self destructiveness, Demme always portrays life as hopeful - not some Capra-esque nirvana of love and redemption but as a tough world full of complex choices and always with the unshakeable conviction that life does, indeed, go on. Even Hannibal Lector at the end of Demme's The Silence of the Lambs is allowed to have an old friend for dinner and the hope of a new life somewhere far from the grip of the FBI.
Rachel Getting Married, Demme's latest film, is like a digest for everything he has stood for as a filmmaker since 1974's women-in-prison classic Caged Heat. In truth, the film often seems less like an actual narrative than a kind of Demme art happening. His sweeping and very democratic visual style seems to have been fused with the ideas behind the Danish Dogme movement and the all inclusive collaborative cinematic murals of Robert Altman. The story is simplicity itself: On a weekend pass from a rehab facility, recovering addict Kym (Anne Hathaway) comes home to attend her sister Rachel's (Rosemarie DeWitt) wedding and is very much aware that all eyes are on her from the instant she's picked up. Her father Paul (Bill Irwin) is way too overprotective, while her sister Rachel seems to want her to vanish, having picked her best friend Emma (Anisa George) over her as maid of honor. But neither of them is a match for her mother, Abby (Debra Winger) whose distance from her children is rivaled only by that of Mary-Tyler Moore in Ordinary People...
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