Friday, November 07, 2008

Demme's "Rachel Getting Married" plays like a dream


Jonathan Demme (well known for directing “The Silence of the Lambs” in 1991) has given us another dense “people play” in “Rachel Getting Married”, written by Jenny Lumet, shot in HD video and distributed by Sony Pictures Classics.

The movie is remarkable more for the art form than just the story. It is like a play, mostly set a lavish Connecticut wedding, with the people and music and celebration coming together with increasing density, in a kind of mass. The outsider is Kym (Anne Hathaway), who gets invited to leave her rehab institutionalization for a weekend and pester this celebration “On the Outside.” She will confront her sister Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) over past conflicts, including a possible abuse, anorexia, and so on. She throws slogans around which are hard to remember after the film. Then, there is the music: the violon, the samba players -- much of the music seems to consist of a Brazilian samba dance by a composer named Baptista, according to the credits; it sounds familiar and obscure at the same time. The set Wagner’s Lohengrin to jazz, and whistle Rossini.

The music moves into different spaces when it recalls Kym’s 12 step program, and when she throws a tantrum and wrecks a car in the middle of the night. (The crash scene is quite well done.) On the other hand, the party seems like globalization brought onto a wealthy person’s estate: every kind of person is there at the party, and the idea of mixed-race marriage seems almost incidental. Little snippets of conversation come up that suggest big issues off in other worlds, as when, near the end, Rachel is offered a job in “public relations.”

In sum, the whole film plays out like an early morning dream, the kind you have in REM sleep.

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