Sunday, November 16, 2008

Getting Intimate - Rachel Getting Married

Rachel Getting Married would like to amend the age-old saying: "Fish and family stink after 3 days." This film posits that it doesn't take that long - only a few minutes.

Jonathan Demme's latest release Rachel Getting Married, is an unexpected visual onslaught. Featuring a hand held camera, Demme's film is rarely stationary. Even if a conversation uses a shot-reverse-shot pattern, Demme uses different angles.

All of this makes viewing Rachel an uneasy experience. A seemingly banal and innocent conversation might erupt into a violent verbal exchange. No remark too insulting. No topic too taboo. At times, the camera may linger instead of an obvious cut to the speaker, allowing a real-time display of a character's reactions. In short, Demme and his DP, Declan Quinn a visually arresting character drama. Normally in a character study, the camera lets the characters tell the story, but not here.

Most striking is the proximity of the camera. A good portion of the film frames the face or the head. Initially, unsettling, the cinematography supports the intimacy of the film. The audience feels close to the characters - so close that we can see a twitching eye, and even the slightest frown. Rachel Getting Married does not allow its characters the freedom to hide within the frame. We know how a character feels, even with their best attempts at hiding it beneath a smile.

Adjusting to a differing family dynamic is difficult. Think of a family as an automobile and whenever a new family member enters the mix, the car rocks a little bit. In this family, the new family member is Kym (an overrated, but still effective Anne Hathaway), a recovering drug and alcohol addict. She's lost her chance at a first impression. She has to earn the respect (and love) from her family. Kym believes that her family should be more supportive, but we understand their trepidation given her history. This family has to learn how to function with its additional member. Likewise, Kym must adjust to her new social dynamic.

Everyone wants to feel like a part of the family. Rachel Getting Married forces us into this role and it's hard when you have no influence. All we can do is feel the highs and lows of a dynamic and diverse family.

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