Sunday, October 26, 2008

Rachel Getting Married

Lordy. I tend to not read reviews before I see movies. For one, I like to form my own impressions. For another, reviews have so many spoilers in them I often feel I’ve seen the movie before I go. Between that and the previews, which tend to give away the entire movie and the best moments of the film, it’s hard to see a movie fresh. That’s a long wind up for why I hadn’t read any reviews of “Rachel Getting Married” before I saw it. Well…it may be the one time I wish I’d read a review.

Anne Hathaway is good (though I did often catch myself seeing her as Anne Hathaway trying not to seem like such a princess for once). The character of her sister, Rachel, is amazing, as is that of the best man. Bill Irwin, as the dad, is great. And so is Debra Winger, as the mother. It’s very real, very authentic. There are some wonderful moments in the film.

But in the end, I turned to Paul and said, “It’s the new ‘Ordinary People.’” That’s not a total dig…at least not from the perspective of the average viewer. My problem with this movie, as a viewer, comes purely from the baggage I bring to the theater. Sibling loss—the theme at the center of OP and RGM—has particular and painful resonance for me. The tragedy at the center of this movie is so unbearable, and the way that they keep pushing it in your face is kind of, what’s the word, unyielding?, at times, that I almost couldn’t watch it.

I actually know of a family that had a similar thing happen…so it’s not like it was out of the realm of the possible. It’s just that for me, this movie was too real. No movie-escapism here for me. I left feeling like I’d been run over by a truck, and then backed over for good measure.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"Trouble the Water" and "Tell No One"

For my first post, I’d hoped to be able to say I brought a bagel with whitefish salad to the movie…Alas, I did not. Ran out of time. Oh well….next time. Meanwhile, I saw two movies last week absolutely worthy of watching:

“Trouble the Water.”

A documentary about the impact of Katrina on residents of the 9th ward, as told through the story of Kim Rivers Roberts and her husband, Scott. The story behind this movie is that Kim and her husband were, like many of the residents of her neighborhood, planning on hunkering down and weathering the storm. Like many natives of New Orleans, they’d done it before. And like many, they didn’t have the funds to go elsewhere. So they stayed.

Kim had acquired a video camera the week before, and decided she was going to document the storm. Her footage is pretty amazing—before images of her neighbors as they rather nonchalantly holed up, the worsening storm, their decision to flee to the attack, footage, out a window, and the staggering image of flood waters that look like ocean waves washing down the street……

At some in the chaos after the storm, the makers of the documentary bumped into Kim and Scott as they were in the process of trying to find a place to “be” outside their neighborhood…They realized the footage Kim had and decided to incorporate the footage into their own film and follow Kim and her husband as they went back to see what was left of their neighborhood when the water receded and, after that, get one with their lives…

It’s an extraordinary story…it’s about what happens to people without money in this country, it’s about the power of place and the impact of displacement, it’s about people who want a better life, it’s about, at the risk of sounding corny, people helping people….In the midst of a situation where these people were worse than ignored by our country, they held out their hands to one another –the frail, the old, the young, the strong.

In Kim’s footage, we see one young man as he wades into the storm water, again and again, with a smile on his face, to rescue people and bring them to higher ground. We see relatives who open their houses and turn over their land to complete strangers in the middle of the night.

We see Kim as she makes sure that each and every person in her posse of people—she and her husband eventually “borrowed” a truck and hauled as many people as they could carry out of the city—finds a place.

It’s really an incredible movie…and an incredible story. And my favorite part is where Kim and Scott eventually end up settled. (Don’t want to spoil it so I won’t tell you.) Watch it—these people deserve to have their stories witnessed.

“Tell No One” (French title: “Ne le dis a personne”)

I heard about this one on NPR in the context of a story about distribution issues for films…this one was an indie that was a hit in Europe and still had a tough time finding its way to U.S. theaters. I couldn’t find it, assumed I’d missed it, and then accidentally stumbled upon a listing for it last week as I was looking for “Trouble the Water.” It’s French Hitchcock…very “North by Northwest” in the sense of an innocent man who, to his bewilderment, gets sucked into a crime story he doesn’t understand. The set up is so beautiful, the characters so believable…you never know where it’s going, every loose end is tied up without being too pat, the ending is satisfying without being cloying…it’s just so well done. Highly recommended.