Sunday, September 20, 2009

Review: Rachel Getting Married

Starring Anne Hathaway and Rosemarie DeWitt
Directed by Jonathan Demme

Speaking as a young, mid-twenty something male who still needs a camera and a solid editing job, I really can't give my experience to wedding videos. What I can imagine from these videos is a chronicle of two families becoming one in a day of complete bliss where all the troubles and headaches of the family seem to disappear. Unfortunately, this is the real world we live in and the daily stresses of life and family don't magically disappear the moment we cut the cake. When a wedding comes it, it's a time where a family is confronted with each others place and where they fit in it, if sadly sometimes at all. I know this can be a cynical point to take but in family, we have to deal with that every day. In last year's 2008 Oscar contender Rachel Getting Married, the film asks if a family can find forgiveness and communication over a horrible past and find a way for everyone to be happy. I'm not sure if the film ever gives us an answer to that question but it did give us one a pretty great film.


Rachel Getting Married is about Kym (Anne Hathaway), a woman just out of 10 years of rehab, who goes to her sister Rachel's (Rosemarie DeWitt) marriage. While the wedding is being planned for the weekend, Kym cant drive a car to her weekly drug addict meetings, has to stay at home with the family, and tries to reconnect with everyone in the house. Not to give too much away, she has a history that lead to a horrifying tragedy for the family and is lead to be the scapegoat. Now she has to come to terms with the family while battling for attention with her sister Rachel for the weekend.

I think the first thing that struck me about the film is the method of which it was shot. It's all done in what appears to be a documentary style with lots of handheld shots taken inside cars for the conversations and going around on the sidelines for the major scenes going on. There were a few awkward moments throughout the film in terms of camera angles and perspective until later on the movie breaks the forth wall and we see another cameraman with professional film equipment. I then realized what we're watching is a wedding video with everyone in the family part of it; Kym coming and gong from rehab, the tension they share, and the entire family dancing and celebrating serve the purpose of how it tries to hold the family together while still having all this tension and angst. While the characters in the film don't realize it, they are part of it. It's pretty effective cinematography that adds a really interesting context to the story.

The film is all about a lack of communication in a family I think everyone can relate to. I know people like Kym and Rachel who seem to fight for the families love and place. I know the parents who are trying to be the peace keepers of the family. Every family has a member who has made some mistakes in their life and the film is an examination of how a family deals with it, or at least tries to deal with it.

Part of the reason the film works as well as it does is that the direction Jonathan Demme took is to let all the actors approach each scene in a different way and allow a lot of improvisation for the different situations. Demme and his casting director Bernard Telsey obviously have a great eye for talent, everyone is fantastic in this movie. The smaller roles really fit in with the mode and add to the scenes but of course the real praise should be given to both Anne Hathaway and Rosemarie DeWitt for their just devastating performances. I've enjoyed Hathaway before with The Devil Wears Prada but this really is a career making role and DeWitt is a wonderful discovery for the years to come.


The only issue I have with the film is that it seems to have too much of an investment in the dancing scenes. I can see that music plays a character itself in the film; a constant reminder of Rachel's day competing with Kym, but it could have been cut down by a few minutes. I kept wanting to go back to the tension with Hathaway, DeWitt, and the family but we get so much partying throughout the film. I should also warn you that this can be a slow moving film at times and can alienate the audience but those scenes with the family really are very much worth it.

Other then that, this film is a great examination of mature sibling rivalry and a family dealing with the past. In the end, it does give hope that the family has a deeper understanding with one another but like the characters, we're never really certain of the fate these characters have. It leaves it to you to decide if the new family will find peace.

Review: The Informant!

Starring Matt Damon
Directed by Steven Soderbergh

Now that the summer season is done with sequels, shoot-em-ups, and sequels to shoot-em-ups, it's finally time for the independent, edgier directors to step up to the plate with some new, original content (thank God). And who better to start the year with the man who does things as different as the overlooked Bubble and Che to the moneymakers like Out of Sight and Ocean's Eleven. Yes, Steven Soderbergh is keeping up his busy year with his latest comedy The Informant!


The film is inspired by the book with the same name minus the exclamation point and is about Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon), a vice-president working for a Fortune 500 Corn manufacturing company. While examining the numbers for the companies farms, Mark discovers a virus contaminating the corn and tries to tell about it but the corporate heads wont listen. Upon discovering the corn is being contaminated by a Japanese company, the company decides to call the FBI to investigate. This is one of those movies that's hard to discuss because it would give away a lot so not to spoil anything, the story goes into conspiracies left and right.

Soderbergh is ultimately going for a stylized dark comedy in this film: it's all done with this perky, 60's score complete with woodstock style titles. The whole film looks like it's set in the time period but is actually set during the mid-90's. Part of the reason for it, not to give too much away, is that Whitacre seems to be someone who loves revolves all his philosophies off movies, magazines, and television. It works well to put is in the world of Whitacre who seems to glamorize his world as a spy movie with him being the hero of the moment; just like the title proclaims, he's excited to be here. The cinematography overall is really memorable without throwing it in our faces while having a purpose to the character.

The Informant!
is a movie that reminds me of Fargo; its about a group of liars who exploit their customers who we're supposed to make fun of. It's a commentary of corruption that's funny but ultimately a sad look at our society; after you see it, you say to yourself "that was actually quite depressing."


I think my biggest issue I have with the movie is how it's told. The story and plot are both well executed and makes it's points about the examinations of the businesses and of the main character Whitacre; but it just feels like Whitacre himself isn't as engaging. I unfortunately think the problem is one thing: Matt Damon. He's certainly a great actor in other films and can be a fun character to watch but he just feels wrong for this material. Whitacre is a kind of arrogant doofus who thinks he's doing the right thing and basking in his own glory in his small little world, it could have made for great character study. There seems to be a lot to dig up with the character but Damon just doesn't seem to flesh out this character well enough; I really didn't buy him playing this kind of arrogant person.

It's really quite a shame too, The Informant! in it's core is a pretty great film but because Damon is so miscast, he cant really carry it all the way through. It's got some great craftsmanship and has an original, fun take on the corporate corruption genre but unfortunately collapses under it's own weight. It's certainly not a bad film, it's just a miscast film. Soderbergh so far has come out with three movies this year alone with The Girlfriend Experience and Che, one of my favorites of the year so far. Perhaps after all this work, he should take a vacation himself.