Thursday, October 30, 2008

Rachel Getting Married

Contains mild spoilers

Jewish people have some very nice traditions. One of them is that on every new moon we have a holiday. This means meat (if you do that sort of thing) and wine, additional thanks in blessings, and for women, especially, a night out with the girls should they choose to accept the responsibility.

It's a tough life and taking it seriously, Tuesday afternoon I zapped off an email to a friend:
Wanna' see a chick flick tomorrow night? My mother-in-law loved Rachel Getting Married.
She jumped to it.

Reviewing a book or a movie is tough if you haven't seen it through to the end. And yet, because imagination is important in a therapist's life, there's no need to have to see the whole film to talk about it. Is there?

There's modest time-wasting intolerance in my family, maybe learned or hereditary. But my brother and I were talking one day and it came up that if a movie bores, scares or disgusts me, ten minutes, I'm out of there.

"Me, too! She (my sister-in-law) hates it, but I'll sit in the lobby and read until it's over."

Me, too. But I forgot a book last night, and didn't want to leave my pal alone. This was my idea, going to a movie. Soon into it I whispered into her ear,

"Any time you're ready. . .like . . .uh, if you don't like it. . ."

A shrug, no move to go.

Here's my quick take.

The camera work for Rachel Getting Married and the editing are dreadful. If you know anything about using a camcorder you know that it is hard to pan well. And walking with a steady camera, difficult. Move that elbow and you're nauseous on playback.

This film is like a bad home movie. That, or we got a really bad reel.

You would think I'd like the story-- addiction and loss, family tragedy and guilt, a young woman's inability to forgive herself. It is sad, truly, but people like me are inured to sad. We hear this kind of story on any given day.

But I never mind extending my work day for a little color, a big movie or small, as long as it has passable sensory delight. Rachel Getting Married is set in the rain, dull interiors of a rambling old house in Connecticut, a poorly lit hall for the engagement party, and the basement of a church for Anonymous meetings. Didn't perk me up and wasn't arty.

And yet, ever since The Devil Loves Prada who doesn't love to watch Anne Hathaway? And Debra Winger, you know I loved Terms of Endearment, has never looked better. Ms. Winger makes you feel that over-fifty is just fine, thank you, which it is, or can be.

Rosemarie Dewitt makes a stunning bride who has a legitimate gripe. Her wedding should not be all about her sister Kym, even if Kym did just get out of rehab. Kym should not be the center of their father's attention, spoiling everyone's good time, injecting what might be called Program-Speak* into every conversation.

Thus we have dysfunction in spades and no indication that the family ever worked together in therapy, despite a long rehabilitation for one leaf. If they did family therapy in that rehab, they didn't get it right.

And because they didn't get it right, when Kym goes home, we see high drama, triangulation, broken glass, car wrecks, tears where there should have been joy. Yet there's a prospect of hopeful love, even for Kym, should she get her act together.

But her therapy, her rehabilitation, whatever she's had, isn't complete. She needs more.

How much more? Does Hollywood resolve the drama without more?

I don't know.

We had to leave. The nausea got to one of us, and honestly, I didn't care enough about the people in the film to want to wait it out.

But you might.

If you like listening to toast after toast after toast at engagement parties, you might like Rachel Getting Married. If you like seeing how one leaf of the family tree's psychology can really wreck what should be the happiest week of her sister's life, you'll like being here. If you like A.A. meetings (the best part of the film, in my opinion) you'll like this movie.

But maybe take a Dramamine before you go.

You can see more stills of the movie on Facebook. Make up your own mind. Let me know how it ends.


P.S. Of course my m-i-l can fill me in on how things worked out. It can be an advantage, having one of these.

*Program-Speak is one way of referring to the language of the 12-Step programs. It is not meant, in any way, derogatorily. Would that everyone learned this language.


Syd said...

Sounds like something my wife might like. Maybe we'll have a date and go see it.

Anonymous said...

I'd been thinking about seeing it. Thanks for saving me from what sounds like something I'd want to walk out on after 10 minutes too.

Isle Dance said...

This is why I love watching movies in jammies at home. :o) Yet I'm so glad I read this post and that you pointed out Debra Winger, as I never would have guessed. She looks amazing!

frumhouse said...

I really like both actresses in this movie - but I also think I will wait to watch it in my pajamas on DVD....

Anonymous said...

Sounds a little boring, from your analogy about the wedding toasts. That's the kind of movie I usually zone out on and spend the time day dreaming. Maybe walking out would be an even better choice.

linrob63 said...


Might I impose on you for a quick definition?


therapydoc said...

Sure. Triangulating is when two unconsciously gang up on a third in a relationship, or leave that person out.

So a parent might ally with a child, as opposed to working out differences with a spouse, infantilizing the spouse.

The idea is that collusion between two comes at the expense of another.

This is pathological if one person really feels left out and unimportant. In the movie, Rachel feels this way, observes how her father obsesses and worries about her sister, and always did.

mother in israel said...

Gretchen at The Happiness Project loved it.

Blinds said...

Thanks for saving me $10. I think I will go see High School Musical 3 instead :)

Jackie said...

It's interesting that real life inures you to sad movies. I find real life sensitizes me to sad movies.... I can deal with my dad dying or my dog dying but having to watch the same thing happen to someone else on the screen? I just can't do it. Sad movies are sensory overload!!! They get me in a way real life doesn't....

Melissa B. said...

Dear Superior Scribbler: Sorry for the "canned" and unrelated nature of this comment, but I wanted to get to as many of you tonite as possible. One of the things that we at Scholastic Scribe are most proud of is the Silly Sunday Sweepstakes. Several of you are already familiar with the arbitrary and quite inane weekly attempt at humor...for you, and for those of you who have not yet played Sx3, I urge you to drop by Sunday to see what's up. Oh, and congrats on being named a SS. You earned it!

rabbi neil fleischmann said...

This post prompted a strong response from me. I'm putting it all down here, although it's long.

I really liked this movie. I think the shakey camera at the beginning was capturing Kym's perspective - just out of the cellar so to speak, untrusting, scared, glancing around, frantic, taking it all in, shakey. True art. The director captured her perspective. And not just in that scene.

Alot of how it was filmed and staged profoundly captured points of view and subtexts. Not since Ordinary People have I felt that a film did such a great job of exposing family dymnamics - to the extent that I felt that for an hour and forty five minutes I was watching this real family's real life (and from some of your comments it sounds like you bought into the family as real too).

Many scenes - the rehearsal for example, were un-movie like, and rather life like instead.

I have an MSW and am educated in this topic (no need to explain the terms you used as far as I'm concerned). I saw the film with a PHD in psych therapist friend whose reaction was extremely ( almost identicle) similar to yours. It just didn't grab her, felt too much like work, was boring...

I was riveted.

I highly recommend this movie, though it's not for the squeamish -I was peeking through the spaces between my fingers that coverered my eyes during several extremely tense scenes.

I think along with Ordinary People this is a good movie to use in a Family Systems class (my teacher used Ordinary People) as it has so much in it (the IP, the alliances/collusions, the denials, the infantilization, the repressions, the jealousy, the projection...

The acting was amazing. The father, played by Billl Irwin, started out as a clown/mime and has come a long way as a dramatic performer. The best friend, the nurse... and of course Debra Winger (when I saw her name in the credits I had to ask my friend who she was in the movie)) really nailed one of the keys to the whole thing.

I like my movies and books heavy - I don't go for escape or entertainment but to learn and grow. I gained insight from this film.

Another dark family movie, very well done is - What's Eating Gilbert Grape? Another movie that really got to me, which really was about similar subject matter was Dolores Claiborne.

On a slightly lighter note - I recommend pieces of April, also a strong and real (but not as intense) picture of a family).

In terms of movies about rehab I found (although it was panned by critics) 28 days with Sandra Bullock to be very effective and

I wonder if anyone else who visits this space saw and apprecited the movie. Sorry you didn't.

Earlier this year I saw I'm Not There, with a friend who went to The Tish School years ago and writes and directs plays. He walked out after ten minutes and waited for me. He felt that it was "garbage."

I don't think I ever walked out of a movie (except once, when a date insisted - it was Cadillac Man). I didn't love that Dylan biopic but it didn't irk me the way it irked my friend, the way it sounds like Rachel Getting Married irked you.

therapydoc said...

It's all good. You're right that it's a good teaching film, maybe a great teaching film. Since I didn't see it through to the end, can't say.

I've heard that it's considered up for awards.

A matter of entertainment preferences, what tickles the seratonin. Twenty years ago I would have loved this film, even with the vertigo. But the truth is, from the get go, the tone, the sadness, the darkness--it wasn't for me.

Once I lost a patient because I wouldn't sit through a movie that won lots of awards.

You just started reading me, but I think I reviewed 28 Days. Loved it.

Maybe I'm shallow, but like it light or historical, at least a good sound track.

Thanks for the many movie suggestions.

It's supposed to be a long, cold winter.

On the other hand, I just caved for DVDR (tivo?). After watching the shows I'd missed, rewinding, pausing when someone called (this thing's amazing), I said to FD, "I totally traded a chunk of my olam habah* with this one!

*Afterlife, like Heaven, I guess.

rabbi neil fleischmann said...

thanks for the reply. so much to say. interesting how changes come in time about how we take to a film (also, relevant to your work - how this is true in life in general).

i believe that what you call the vertigo was very intentional and it worked for me, though i get and rspect that it didn't work for you. richard brown says in his film course that within the first few minutes of a movie, generally, you either buy in or you don't. i bought right in, you didn't.

i did discover you recently, as i think you did me. in my four years (poo poo poo) of posts i have written about my favorite movies and some reviews too. i will try to look at your 28 weeks review - it really took me, there's the search box on the top left that i find works charms.

funny that you mention soundtracks because after seeing 28 weeks (and other movies i really liked and felt the music enhanced - like the secret garden, a merry war, and the tic code. s more very good movies, INHO - the secret garden being strongest and with the strongest music) i went out and bought the cd - includes joy to the world, lean on me, and a bunch of quirky louden wainright III songs.

between doing the basics of physical and emotional and spiritual life (and maybe a little more than the basics) and writing as a release, ie. posting pretty often, i don't always get to read as much of other blogs as i'd like (and when i read i like to really read and take in and not just visit and skim).

i haven't yet been inclined to get any blogs emailed to me, one more technological thing that may or may not come along and be helpful.

while n this topic - i recommend miriamhasablog (invitation only), annenotations, qc report (the little girl from the goodbye girl, who's now, of course an adult who writes personal essays in brilliant, vivid detailed, funny style), the curious jew - a wise college student, and pearlies of wisdom. there are more - hope i didn't forget or offend (kind of a mantra of mine).

recently the curious jew posted about freedom writers, another film that really grabbed me. (it can be found via google or by using the serch box on her blog. she focussed on one point, one scene of about a minute in length that really struck me when I watched it (twice - once in the theater with a class i took to see it, and once in school, after school, with a class i showed it to).

keep up the good work.

G-d Bless,

therapydoc said...

I think I wrote about Freedom Writers, or meant to. Thanks again for the links. How does one get into an Invitation Only blog???

Synchronicity said...

oh that is dissapointing. had seen a movie recently where i had to walk out...The Women. you pay so much to see a movie does pay to read the reviews or hear from word of mouth. thanks for letting us know.

Unknown said...

Strange where google leads you. I thought I might find something thoughtful about "Rachel Getting Married" from an AA perspective. Instead, I found your unfortunate piece. My bad.

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