January 9, 2009

"Rachel Getting Married"

Here's my review for The American Conservative of last fall's "Rachel Getting Married," which is still relevant because Anne Hathaway appears to be the frontrunner for the Best Actress Oscar. (This is the version as I wrote it, not as it was printed, so don't blame the magazine for my gratuitous scandal-mongering conclusion in which, based on almost no evidence, I insinuate that John McCain may have broken up P.J. O'Rourke's marriage to the real-life model for Anne Hathaway's character.)
Hollywood likes to squeeze a little more milk out of the DVD cow by occasionally re-releasing an old movie as an (inevitably longer) "Director's Cut." Sadly, we never get to buy a shorter "Editor's Cut." With luck, director Jonathan Demme's "Rachel Getting Married" will be the first. Buried under more than an hour of Demme's Sixties noodling is a nifty sixty-minute family drama.

Demme, who was born in 1944 (in between George Harrison and Keith Moon), was a sort of idiot savant music video genius, who in 1984 made the best ever rock concert movie, Talking Heads' "Stop Making Sense." His 1986 masterpiece "Something Wild" incorporated the nascent "world music" trend delightfully. Unfortunately, the title "Stop Making Sense" proved prophetic. Demme's shambolic 1992 Academy Award acceptance speech for "Silence of the Lambs" may be the most incomprehensible yet.

As Demme's musical-visual gifts dimmed, he turned to "liberal humanist" (i.e., boring) message movies such as "Philadelphia," in which Tom Hanks proves that homophobia caused the AIDS epidemic (rather than, say, industrial-scale gay promiscuity). After Demme's useless remakes of "Charade" in 2002 and "The Manchurian Candidate" in 2004, the industry seems to have concluded that he doesn't have enough brain cells left to handle a big production. Thus, the low budget "Rachel Getting Married" looks like an amateur wedding video. Half the film consists of Demme's not-as-hip-as-they-used-to-be friends improvising tedious toasts and mediocre music.

The movie's better half stars a charismatic Anne Hathaway (a heretofore-bland leading lady whose dark eyebrows made most of the impression in "The Devil Wears Prada") as Kym, an attentionaholic part-time model turned full-time drug addict who is furloughed from a posh rehab clinic for her sister's wedding. Exactly as her levelheaded sister Rachel dreads, Kym's self-destructive antics enthrall the multicultural throngs crowding the grounds of their father's Connecticut estate to prepare for Rachel's big day on which the Reform rabbi is to marry her to a tall, gentlemanly black man from Hawaii.

The highlight of the ceremony is the groom singing his bride a Neil Young ballad. White liberals critics have gone nuts over "Rachel" because the interracial marriage reminds them of a certain black Hawaiian's promise that promoting "mutual understanding" is "in my DNA." I fear, though, that even electing Obama President won't get many black guys to understand the appeal of whiny Canadian folk rockers from the Sixties.

First-time screenwriter Jenny Lumet named the groom "Sidney." She is presumably referencing both Sidney Poitier in Stanley Kramer's "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," and her father, Sidney Lumet, director of 1957's "Twelve Angry Men," one of Kramer's successors as a liberal warhorse.

Various shocking revelations about Kym's culpability in the death a decade before of their little brother ensue, culminating in a confrontation with her mother (1980s legend Debra Winger of "An Officer and a Gentleman" making one of her myriad, but still welcome, comebacks). "Rachel Getting Married" has a decent little plot if you like upscale suburban family tragedies in the tradition of "Ordinary People." Lumet handles the disclosures about the death of the child realistically and effectively. Rather than build up to stagey moments, jagged shards of information are blurted out before you can prepare your emotional defenses.

Still, a more entertaining screenplay could be written about the star's off-screen misadventures. Hathaway was in the news in June when the FBI hauled away her suave Italian boyfriend, Raffaello Follieri. Outfitted with clerical cassocks and a claim to be the Vatican's chief financial officer, Follieri had wormed his way into a $100 million deal with Bill Clinton and Ron Burkle to sell off Roman Catholic churches in America to pay for sex scandal settlements. On a rented yacht in Montenegro, the bipartisan cute couple also hosted the 70th birthday party of John McCain.

An equally entertaining movie could be made about the real-life Lumet sisters (who are granddaughters of famed jazz vocalist and beauty Lena Horne). When their dad received his Lifetime Achievement Oscar in 2005, screenwriter Jenny, the sensibly dressed old-fashioned leftist, had the global television spotlight stolen from her by the startling new cleavage of her sister Amy, a would-be model and 1992 National Review contributor ("Baby Cons of America, unite: You have nothing to lose but your parents' guilt.") Interestingly, Amy Lumet's marriage to hard-partying conservative satirist P.J. O'Rourke broke up about when she is said to have worked for John McCain.

Now, Jenny / Rachel has taken sibling rivalry to a new level.

Rated R for language and brief sexuality.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've never seen any of Anne Hathaway's movies, so I know her mostly from movie trailers and an SNL appearance, but let me say this: her face really disturbs me. It's like somebody worked on it in post-production to achieve a cheesy, juvenile horror movie skull-like special effect on it. The black, way-too-large eyes, the too-large mouth smiling as if it was painted on stereotypical pirate ship flag - it's all too much. I don't know if this is the result of bad plastic surgery or of a weird genetic defect. All I know is that I don't want to look at it.

l. ron hoover said...

A truly weird review, Steve, a melange of astute observations, questionable speculation, gossip and hobby horse riding. I agree with your view of Demme's career, which turned sadly downward when he won mainstream accolades and box office success.

Dennis Dale said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

How the hell does this blog qualify as part of modern hard right American politics?

Where are the Bob Dylan references? Where is the love affair with Israel?

Anonymous said...

I thought for sure that the great Taki was forced to end reader comments on his blog because of the heat he took on that 'six rabbis went to Murdoch to ask him to fire O'Reilly' article.

But instead it looks like he ended comments in preparation for some truthtelling on Israel. Lo and behold he has righteously bashed the dirtbags Frum and Kristol with his latest article. He has properly called them out as foreign agents.

Frum and Kristol are two of the guys behind your own career marginalization Steve. Yet you provide no link to Taki's blog entry or mention of it though it's been up for three days.

Where's the love Steve? Did Taki go too far for your delicate sensibilities? Or - in the Rovian style - is everybody who is positioned an inch to the right of you a radical?

Danindc said...

and that ladies and gentleman is why Steve Sailer is the best in the business

Anonymous said...

please look on google images for Anne hathaway

she is incredibly attractive. I have no idea what the posters above are thinking -- after all, the whole point of leftism is to turn our most beautiful against us.

Anonymous said...

Trivial side note: There is one director's cut that's actually shorter than the original theatrical release. It's the Coen Brothers' first film, Blood Simple, and it's shorter by a whopping two minutes. Bless their little pixilated hearts.

Harry Baldwin said...

Steve writes: "Sadly, we never get to buy a shorter 'Editor's Cut.'"

After we saw Peter Jackson's hopelessly self-indulgent "King Kong," my teenaged daughter expressed the hope that the Deluxe Edition DVD would be 40 minutes shorter.

rast said...

Dan, three steps to creating a great blog:

1. ??????
2. Dennis Dale posts in comment section.
3. Profit?

I'm still trying to figure out that first step.

Anonymous said...

This is off topic but I just read this and wanted to share it: http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0109/p25s30-usju.html

It stems from a 2004 lawsuit filed by white firefighters in New Haven, Conn., who say they passed an exam for a job promotion only to have the test results thrown out because no African-American candidate received a high enough score to also be considered for promotion.

But when no blacks and only two Hispanic applicants qualified for consideration for the management jobs, the city decided to scrap the entire test.

Seventeen white firefighters and one Hispanic firefighter who passed the test sued, claiming the city violated their constitutional right to equal treatment. They also charged that the city violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by discriminating against them solely because they weren't black.


It's so absurd I can hardly believe it's real.

TBA said...

{...} "Philadelphia," in which Tom Hanks proves that homophobia caused the AIDS epidemic (rather than, say, industrial-scale gay promiscuity) {...}

I haven't watched the entire film but I do remember that it's explicitly stated that Hanks's character got AIDS from having casual sex in a movie theatre.

Richard H said...

"Frum and Kristol are two of the guys behind your own career marginalization Steve. "

Is there real evidence for this?

testing99 said...

Anne Hathaway has a ... rather messy personal life. Probably has always been standard in Hollywood but now is all over the place. "Too much information" regarding her own personal preferences ...

As for Israel, lots of conservatives love Israel and support it -- Sarah Palin being the best known and myself the most obscure.

At the heart of the 21st Century is the conflict between militant Islam, driven by polygamist created instability, and the West. Including Israel but also India, China, Russia, and many other places. I'll note no one gave a damn when Russia flattened Chechnya and leveled Grozny, or China sent lots of Uighurs and Hui to prisons or firing squads, or Hindu mobs set aflame hundreds of Muslims.

No it's only Israel. Steyn called it, the hate that never dies and always adapts. It's that Israel and Jews EXIST that enrages the Paleo-tards like Buchanon and the like. Along with the Hard Left like Ayers, Dohrn, Michael Moore, Sean Penn, and Barack Hussein Obama. [He's now set to recognize and negotiate with Hamas according to the Guardian.]

Deeply assimilated Jews like Warner, Goldwyn, Mayer, etc. gave us great movies like Casablanca or the Maltese Falcon or Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Exciting films people actually enjoyed. Not like Rachel Getting Married -- of interest only to the terminally hip and evidence of Hollywood's passing from assimilated, pro-American Jews who created Hollywood to WASPY Harvard elites.

Steve Sailer said...

rast writes:

Dan, three steps to creating a great blog:

1. ??????
2. Dennis Dale posts in comment section.
3. Profit?

I'm still trying to figure out that first step.


Rast, I'm still trying to figure out that third step.

Anonymous said...

"How the hell does this blog qualify as part of modern hard right American politics?

Where are the Bob Dylan references? Where is the love affair with Israel?"

Lawrence Auster is a good and decent man to whom conservatives owe a huge debt. He has a better grasp on liberalism and Islam than anyone alive.

Your problem should be with liberalism, not Jews.

Testing is exactly right. Who here is *not* on Russia's side against Chechnya?

Whiter Person said...

I am on Chechnya's side in their struggle against Russian imperialism. As for Hindus vs Muslims and Chinese vs Uighurs, things are less clear-cut. Neither side is Western, so it is difficult to tell who to root for. I'm hoping to find out if either side is being secretly helped by the U.S., and then I'll root for the other side.

Anonymous said...

Do even movie review threads have to become shouting matches about Jews? Can we stick to the topic of Steve's post at least a little bit? Jeez.

Anonymous said...

"...evidence of Hollywood's passing from assimilated, pro-American Jews who created Hollywood to WASPY Harvard elites."

Ah yes, those blasted WASPy Harvard elites, forever racing about in their Stutz Bearcats, sipping bathtub gin from their hip-flasks during those debauched Harvard-Yale games, and plotting to keep poor little Hyman Goldberg from realizing his dream of becoming a stockbroker at one of those stuffy old Wall Street firms. Does their villainy know no limits? When will their stranglehold on the reins of power be broken?

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

Lawrence Auster is a good and decent man to whom conservatives owe a huge debt. He has a better grasp on liberalism and Islam than anyone alive.

Your problem should be with liberalism, not Jews.

Testing is exactly right. Who here is *not* on Russia's side against Chechnya?""

I agree. Auster is a good man, if a bit prickly, and the attacks on him are not only off-topic, but off the mark.

As to which side of Russia/Chechnya I fall down on - the answer is: neither. I don't care whether Chechnya is independent or not. Sure, the Russians are bastards. So are the Chechnyans. And Steve's point about Israel is not that they don't deserve to exists, but just that their problems are their problems, not ours.

And just so this post doesn't go completely off topic, I'll leave off with this:

Anne Hathaway: Hot.

Peter Jackson: undisciplined, talentless hack.

Anonymous said...

"...evidence of Hollywood's passing from assimilated, pro-American Jews who created Hollywood to WASPY Harvard elites."

Uh, the Jews ARE the Harvard elite.
What century are you living in?

Anonymous said...

I wonder if testing99 realizes how ironic it is that he's obsessively bashing "WASPY Harvard elites". That's exactly what all the contemporary Jewish, Italian, and Irish directors in Hollywood do: continue to flog the moldering corpse of the long-defunct WASP elite.

A perfect example of this is Robert De Niro's "The Good Shepherd" (written by Eric Roth, produced by F. F. Coppola), a non-stop fiesta of WASP flogging, featuring the same stale old stereotypes of the snooty, emotionally repressed Connecticut blue-bloods versus the "vibrant" life-loving immigrant types. There's even a speech to that effect clumsily inserted into the film and delivered by none other than Joe Pesci: "We Italians have family, Jews have their traditions, Black have their music, what do you [i.e., Ivy-league WASPs] have?"

I guess it's good exercise, though, thrashing that dead horse. And, who knows, maybe a lot of people will still buy it. But not on this website, I bet.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, The Good Shepherd. HA! What a tedious Hollywood exercise in Wasp-bashing that POS was.

The really funny thing is that its constipated blue-eyed Connecticut Wasp protagonist was actually based on James Jesus Angleton, a dark Mexican-Italian Catholic originally from Idaho.

Oh, the unintended irony! LMAO at dumb Hollywood moviemakers.