Since seeing it at the local film festival a few weeks ago, I haven’t had time to think any deep thoughts about Rachel Getting Married, but I have been somewhat fascinated by the reactions it has received from some of my favorite bloggers, especially where the film’s casual — yet never openly acknowledged — blending of cultures and ethnicities is concerned.
Here are some key quotes from their posts on this film:
Jeffrey Wells, Hollywood Elsewhere:
But a friend has observed that the way Demme portrays the African-American and Jamaican characters — Sidney, his Army-serving younger brother, his parents and the various musicians and guests who float in and out — is a form of benevolent reverse racism. He does this, my friend argued, by making certain that only the white characters — Rachel and Kym and their parents, played by Debra Winger and Bill Irwin — are the screwed-up ones. Antsy, haunted, angry, nervous, gloomy. But the darker-skinned characters are all cool, kindly, radiant, gentle, serene.
I was a little suprised when I first heard this view, but I’m starting to think she may have a point. It does seem a little phony. I would have invested myself a little bit more in Rachel Getting Married if, say, Sidney has been a wee bit obnoxious or an obsessive-compulsive or a relentless pot smoker — anything but the dull block of wood that Demme, Lumet and Adebimpe have created. Everyone everywhere has conflicts, problems, insecurities, regrets. Except in films like this one.
Brett McCracken, The Search:
But the thing I like most about this movie is its commitment to hipster realism. It has an almost ethnographic-like attention to the details and culture of hipster, which I—as a person who is currently writing a book about hipsters—readily appreciated. . . .
The music is really where the film hits the nail on the hipster head. It is eclectic with a capital E. Dozens of Sidney’s bohemian musician friends are bumming around the house during the entire wedding weekend, jamming to jazz and folk and whatever they feel like. A drums-and-guitar emo punk plays a Hendrix-style wedding processional. Sidney sings Neil Young’s “Unknown Legend” for his wedding vow. There is hip hop, an African drum collective, a jazz trumpeter, and an androgynous DJ for everything in between. And that’s only what I can remember. . . .
The people partying with gleeful, postmodern abandon (when they are not embroiled in family drama and emotional catharsis) are the very essence of hipsterdom today. It’s about pastiche, de-contextualized pop commodities, “subversive” stylistic fusion, and non-committal, consumer-oriented multiculturalism.
Victor Morton, Rightwing Film Geek:
Even if it were no good as a family-relationship drama, though it is, it REALLY is … RACHEL GETTING MARRIED works as a completely-unintentional parody of Connecticut Upper-Crust Secular Multicultural Awareness. I began mentally ticking things off: there are four “parents” on Rachel’s side of the family (the side the film focuses on); the marriage is inter-racial and this is never even alluded to in any form; every ethnic group is represented in this World’s Fair by Benneton wedding guest list (I had to stifle a giggle at the entry of the Latin America Booth in the form of samba-dancers dressed for Rio Carnival week and a short dumpy woman in Andean Indian garb); the bride announces she is pregnant during the weekend, and this results in unmitigated celebration; their religion is “Religion”: the wedding cake was decorated by Hindu elephants, the wedding outfits are Indian-style, the walls are decorated by Christian-looking icons but done in the Hindu style, and Kym (the film’s central character, played by Anne Hathaway) toasts “L’Chaim”; the marriage is not in a church or by any sort of minister and the couple wrote their own vows; they live in Stamford in a multi-storey home on a lot big enough to pitch a wedding tent in the yard; Kym drives an old-model Mercedes; rehab, psychology PhD’s, smoking-Nazism and fucking someone the day you meet him are all considered unremarkable.
A fellow film geek “twittered” me “why do I have a feeling RGM is gonna piss you off just because of the wedding alone?” He was correct in guessing that I detest these people in the abstract and I’d consider attending this wedding in real-life to be a purgatorial experience. But as for the film I didn’t mind all this stuff at all. Why should a portrayal of a slice of society you dislike not have signifiers of “Dislikability”? It’s not that any of these Bobo Signifiers is unbelievable or remarkable; few are morally significant per se. But the sheer amount of them makes displayed Boboism almost a structuring principle (a thing you notice and react to), and it starts to become funny — how much more Aware and Tolerant can they portray themselves. “Oh … there’s Rigoberta Menchu … Must. Not. Giggle.”
Karina Longworth, SpoutBlog:
But the lack of racism amongst the two families plays into a larger issue, one which engulfs those dreaded saris as well. Holed up in their sprawling Connecticut manse, Rachel and family are cut off from the functioning world by virtue of their obvious immense wealth. Rich, sheltered people do “eccentric” things like wearing saris instead of wedding dresses, partially because they can afford to explore stupid whims, and partially because their stupid whims mark them as “unconventional.” From the color blindness of both families, to the (unfortunately sexless) all-night orgy of fractured cultural reference into which the wedding party gloriously devolves, Demme is telling us that this family prides itself on its creativity, its liberalism, its openness, its ostentatious rejection of convention.
But of course, this self-styled nonconformity is not only unsustainable, it’s revealed to be totally false. When filterless addict Kym (Anne Hathaway) is dropped straight from rehab into this happy liberal idyll, nobody can deal with her brand of actual nonconformity, her inability to simmer down to normal. Rachel’s volatile, often unpleasantly frank younger sister is the only thing that could puncture the bubble in which she’s determined to marry. Seen from this angle, the over-the-top multiculturalism is absolutely essential: this is ultimately a film about a family that’s self-consciously molded itself as the most accepting, post-60s construct possible, and then force them to confront the only thing that could possibly make them uncomfortable, the embodiment of the problems they don’t have, the kind of unresolvable personal misery that even money can’t stave off.
Meanwhile, Steve Sailer explores the possibility that the sibling rivalry in the film may be inspired to some degree by the relationship between screenwriter Jenny Lumet and her sister Amy. The Lumets, incidentally, are bi-racial themselves, being the daughters of filmmaker Sidney Lumet on the one hand, and the granddaughters of actress Lena Horne on the other hand.