Monday, March 30, 2009

Best Film of 2008: Rachel Getting Married

Yes I'm going out on a limb. And dammit, I feel alive!

Seriously though, I just watched Rachel Getting Married, and I think I enjoyed it more than any other movie I've seen in the past year (including the best picture nominees though I haven't seen Slumdog Millionaire yet; also, for purposes of gushing here I'm excluding a certain bat-themed movie). I'm not sure I've ever stated this explicitly before on this blog, but I live for good movies and, more recently, good television on DVD. Because of my trouble with reading novels I actually find more inspiration from screenwriting than I do from novels. Doesn't seem quite right, but it is what it is and I've come to terms with it.

That being said, perhaps I should allow myself to include a movie review in this blog now and then.

I figured I'd like RGM for two reasons. First, it received good reviews. Second, it stars my crush of the last four years, Anne Hathaway. Until this movie I was never completely sure whether my future wife was a talented actress in addition to being quirky and beautiful, but I question no longer. Her performance was riveting and worthy of the Best Actress nod she received

But RGM has so much more going for it than Anne. I can't remember the last time I felt so emotionally exhausted after a movie. The film centers around a recovering drug addict, Kym, and her family. After a nine month stint in drug rehab Kym is allowed to leave for the weekend to attend her sister Rachel's wedding. While it is a joyous occasion indeed, the suppressed dysfunction of the entire (in my opinion well-meaning) family begins quickly to reemerge, threatening any hope of happiness or peace for the lot of them. The whole cast was superb --- there was no character I didn't like --- and there was delicious tension throughout, nearly unbearable at times but for the moments of piercing tenderness thrown in. My heart was pounding through most of it, as if I were watching a blockbuster action film. Kym may be the instigator most times, but every family member has their weakness, and despite their love they struggle to get out of each other's way.

And thankfully, though much of the movie was heart wrenching, it is not a tragedy. I found the resolution very satisfying and somewhat uplifting, without being sugary. Thus, I did not walk away saying: "Wow, that was a great movie. I want to kill myself now," which is sometimes the trouble with "realism" in film

The best thing about this movie was the depth of and interaction between the characters, but there's another thing that impressed me. As a cultural treatment, the film is extremely progressive. The families being joined by the marriage both share an intelligent warmth, and a deep appreciation of music, but the similarities stop there. Kym's family is white, but the groom and his family are black. The older generation seemed to have accents I thought placed them somewhere in the Caribbean but apparently they're from Hawaii (which adds even more racial complexity to the mix). The flock of musician friends occupying the house during wedding preparations add several more ethnic ingredients to the mix. And I'm no music aficionado, but I doubt anyone could find a unifying regional theme to the various (danceable) songs performed during and after the ceremony. The bride and bridesmaids even wore saris, though none of them were Indian as far as I could tell. The clash of cultures was overt, joyous, and pervasive, yet it was not spoken about once. Even at the height of aggression and anger between some family members, there was never a hint of prejudice, ignorance or race resentment betrayed. It simply was not an issue, not even unconsciously. How encouraging!

Incidentally, the film was directed by the very capable Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) which I suppose should not surprise me, but I tell you, I'm very eager to see what else first-time screenwriter Jenny Lumet has up her sleeve.

If I needed any more evidence that this movie did it for me, I've been raving about it non-stop since it ended (always a sign I've seen a winner). Moreover, I'm writing copious notes for a short story idea that came to me, inspired by the film, which hasn't happened since I wrote the epilogue to my novel (which started as a short story) years ago.

There's my pitch. Go see this movie!