Friday, December 26, 2008

Rachel Getting Married

In theory a marriage should only be about two people taking vows to spend their lives together but in practice a marriage is a complicated undertaking because it involves the families of the couples, close friends and distance relatives. And since most family members have not seen each other for many months or even years, a marriage provides a reunion of sorts as well. And when a large number of family and friends are attending, organizing and planning a wedding ends up becoming a stressful event so it is not a surprize that family tensions easily boil over at the slightest conversation.

Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding showed some of these complicated issues while depicting an Indian marriage in New Delhi. Thoughts of Mira Nair's film came to my mind while watching Rachel Getting Married because of the presence of some Indian elements in Rachel's American wedding, from the sari's the bridesmaid have to wear to the Indian food served at pre-wedding dinner (saag paneer, tandoori chicken and naan) to the garland around Rachel's groom (Sidney) and finally the Indian inspired blue Elephant wedding cake. But Rachel's wedding is inclusive of many cultural elements and it is an American marriage where Jazz and folk music feature equally side by side along with samba and even a bhangra beat.

Even though everyone is gathered for Rachel's wedding, it is her younger sister Kym (Anne Hathaway) that the camera gets drawn to. Kym is returning home from rehab to attend the wedding and the consequences from her former substance addiction form the stress points in the family. And very early on, we get clues of the underlying tensions within the family. Sure enough, things do eventually boil over, followed by a minor calming period, before everything truly comes crashing down. Yet, despite the wreckage (emotional and physical), a recovery process starts again and we are left with hope that one day things will eventually get better.

Monsoon Wedding, Rachel Getting Married and the Danish film The Celebration share a bond in using hand-held cameras to depict the drama that takes place when family members are gathered and how secrets and confessions are unfolded. The hand-held camera works very well in such films because the technique gives us an intimate look at familial discussions and lets us in on the complicated issues. In Rachel Getting Married the camera stays in the room when only the close family members are left to hash out their problems and attempt to come to terms with the past and in moments such as this the film achieves a verite feel as the expressions and emotions of the characters don't feel like scripted cinema at all.

Overall, this is easily one of the best American films of the year and Anne Hathaway deserves all the praise she is getting as he puts in a stellar performance. Also, it is nice to see a film which is an accurate representation of the modern cultural diversity that exists in America, as opposed to seeing a film which features the same set of characters and cliched scenarios.

Rating: 10/10

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