And All at Once I Had to Face the Big Light: Some movie reviews

Rachel Getting Married: The story of a woman coming out of rehab just in time for her sister’s wedding. I think even people who don’t share my particular issues would find this a gripping, intensely painful story, showing our attempts at self-justification (and how even our attempts to do the right thing, be good, and/or make amends become self-centered and self-justifying) and how hard it is for well-meaning people to love one another. The set-piece scenes, like the toasting, are uniformly terrific. You can’t look away. And there’s a twelve-step meeting which has one of the best depictions I’ve ever seen of someone appalled–revolted–by God’s mercy. “Righteousness and peace shall kiss each other” is a hard saying. The reconciliation of justice and mercy required something as terrible and appalling as the Cross.

(Victor Morton gave it a nine, and I liked it even more than he did….)

Margot at the Wedding: Parallel titles, and kind of parallel setups–self-justifying upper-class siblings coping with one sister’s impending marriage. This one didn’t work for me, but it might for you. It lacks the propulsive energy of RGM. I know I call everything desultory, but if it meanders like a duck…. I couldn’t connect to any of the characters and the movie is not especially visually-interesting, so the two things which most easily make an unconventional narrative structure (like The Exiles‘) compelling were absent. Still, here’s Victor’s review, which is much more positive, so you can see if you might like a look at this flick from Noah “The Squid and the Whale” Baumbach.

The Swimmer: Burt Lancaster stars in an adaptation of the Cheever short story. For lovers of Lancaster (I’ll raise a hand here) this is a treat. Parts of it do feel a bit padded, but given that they stretch a short story into an hour and half of film, I was surprised at how tight it felt: the downward dive. The pacing of the revelations is really solid; you can guess, and you mostly do guess, but each confirmation of your worst suspicions still makes your heart sink a little lower.

It’s not a realist film but a melodrama. I love melodrama so I am 100% okay with that. Lancaster’s Technicolor voice was made for this kind of film. The opening, with the plangent music and the autumn leaves and then that golden, autumnal voice, is enrapturing.

If I have one criticism it’s that the music is used too much. It’s excellent at the beginning but by the end I was surfeited.

Part of AFI’s Lancaster series, which is still going on, so check out their schedule.

Blindness: Ferocious horror-style adaptation of Jose Saramago’s novel about an epidemic of blindness. I didn’t feel like the movie did too much with the symbolic weight of blindness, which is fine by me–that approach often leads to a movie you feel like you solve, “the blindness is mistrust!’ or whatever, rather than one you get immersed in. Instead, the movie thinks through, in a fairly consistent and compelling way, how the epidemic would play out: how humans would react to having a new category of the helpless. There’s a lot of “man is wolf to man”–this is a brutally hard movie to watch, with many scenes of abuse of power, humiliation, and rape–but also some exploration of ways in which that isn’t the only true story of humankind.

There’s at least one odd coincidence of timing, which may be the result of compressing a novel into a movie; and I would have liked less resolution to the conflicts among the main group of blind people. But this is a visually-striking, painful movie, which I’d definitely recommend if you can stomach the portrayals of violence and degradation.

About Eve Tushnet

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