Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Two and a half months ago I flew back to Seattle to visit friends and family before the holidays. Of course there are perks inherent to returning to your former-theatre-employee stomping ground; notably, (nearly) free movies. So when I had eight hours to kill in the University District before meeting up with my dad, I naturally headed straight for the Metro to catch an afternoon movie. My film of choice: Rachel Getting Married.

So, sleep-deprived and jet-lagged, I joined the four or five retired women already in the auditorium midway through the trailers. I was by no means certain that I'd be able to remain conscious for the duration of the film, let alone focused enough to properly take it in. Regardless, my course was set...I'd walked into a dark room where a film was to be projected; there was no turning back. I am happy to report that I do not regret choosing Rachel Getting Married as the first screening of my triumphant (if temporary) return to free-moviedom.

At RGM's core lies a pretty basic story. Kym (Anne Hathaway) is a recovering drug addict. She has just been released from rehab and the first order of business is attending her sister Rachel's (Rosemarie DeWitt) wedding, a rather large and lively gathering of family and friends. From this deceptively simple premise, RGM launches into an exploration of the interpersonal relationships between Rachel and her family (especially important are the relationships between Kym and Rachel, and between both sisters and their father). The beautiful wedding goes forward as planned while emotional confrontations occur and recur both behind-the-scenes as well as in plain view of all the guests. Some tragic family history comes to light before film's end and, though the conclusion of RGM doesn't offer the degree of closure some viewers might crave, it is appropriate and (in my eyes, ears, mind and heart) realistic.

The movie is attractive in an almost magnetic way. Notably, there are a number of car-crash style "this is ugly but I can't look away" moments. Even more alluring, however, is the overwhelming sense of involvement this movie lends itself to. It must be noted that part of what involves the audience is the way this film was made; to wit, it was shot in close quarters using handheld HD-video cameras. I know some people hate the so-called "shaky cam" style of cinematography, but the sheer intimacy of this film could never have been achieved without it.

More than anything, RGM is a great story and an unfiltered look into the sometimes painful experiences that come with being part of a family. What makes the movie unique is its execution. The intimate cinematography. The organic integration of music. The naturalistic, emotionally-charged performances.

I admit, I've heard the very aspects I champion above derided as elements of what amounts to an extravagant "Jonathan Demme music video". And I know that some people may see this film and experience none of the magic I have. But maybe long, narrative music videos just work for me. Or perhaps I just happened to be in the right mood to receive this film positively. Twice. Honestly though, I believe genuine emotional truth exists in this movie. And even if the style of filmmaking isn't your cup of tea, I believe that truth will filter through to you.

For those of us who can embrace theses unconventional yet valuable modes of moviemaking, however, Rachel Getting Married is an absolute gift, a film you will wish you could be part of it. It is completely absorbing, completely heartrending, and completely wonderful; a true experience.

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