Thursday, January 8, 2009

Rachel Got Married and I was there, albeit late

Like the gals at, I find Anne Hathaway intriguing. She went from princess to topless and then recovered by Becoming Jane and Agent 99 almost in the same breath. Of course I was going to see Rachel Getting Married, the film in which Hathaway plays an "anti-princess" according to the screenwriter Jenny Lumet's NPR interview. And I finally have seen it, and I have three things to discuss.

1. The film elaborates on a family's stunning failure to set boundaries. Mother Buchman (Debra Winger) permits her drug-addled daughter Kym (played by Hathaway) to be younger baby brother's primary caretaker. Baby dies. Rachel Buchman’s groom sings an a cappella rendition of Neil Young’s song "Unknown Legend" as part of his wedding vows. Guests weep. Even the way the film came to be made shows the scarcity of boundaries in Hollywood. Jenny Lumet has been charmingly public about how she had her father, famous director Sidney Lumet, phone up and personally ask Jonathan Demme to read the screenplay. And a film was born. Ironically, the film features several scenes of 12-step meetings. For those of you who don't know, 12-step programs notoriously promote detachment and other forms of interpersonal boundary-setting even while encouraging participants to reveal their darkest secrets repeatedly to a room full of strangers, narrating and re-narrating their crises to such a point of prolificacy that the lines between human lives grow indistinguishable.

2. Anyway, such a thematic—-the no-boundaries thematic—-appears to be most fertile in the deliberately low-budget mode of handheld camerawork, verité if you will. With hopes of making certain people cringe, I hereby nominate Rachel Getting Married as a wildly successful American example of Dogme 95. My evidence? The close-up purity of Kym's black eye suggests the absence of filters. The constant strumming on various musical instruments is not merely gratuitous background soundtrack but actually rather irritating and intrusive noise, as witnessed when one of the characters finally begs the wedding band to stop their incessant rehearsing in the next room so that the family can have another one of their painfully honest discussions about their shared personal tragedies and sustained bitter resentments. One recalls Thomas Vinterberg's amazing film Festen (Denmark 1998), in which another family gathering turns into a series of grainy, grimey catastrophes. One wishes to revisit Vinterberg's amazing film, in fact. One might do so this weekend.

3. Finally, I have to ask, what was up with all the cultural appropriation? Since when does a wedding between a white woman and a black man necessitate exotic wedding garb in the form of poorly tied saris? Isn't such a union already sufficiently "multicultural"? If one boundary was going to be set in this film, it should have been this one: if an Indian is not getting married, the bride should not be wearing a sari and eating "aloo gaabi."

Oh well... at least now we all know where Robyn Hitchcock has been hiding all these years.