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Rachel Getting Married(2008)
When Kym returns to the Buchman family home for the wedding of her sister Rachel, she brings a long history of personal crisis and family conflict along with her. The wedding party's abundant cast of friends and relations have gathered for an idyllic weekend of feasting, music and love, but Kym -- with her black-comic one- liners and knack for bombshell drama -- is a catalyst for long-simmering tensions in the family dynamic.
For more about Rachel Getting Married and the Rachel Getting Married Blu-ray release, see Rachel Getting Married Blu-ray Review published by Greg Maltz on March 19, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Debra Winger, Bill Irwin, Anna Deavere Smith, Mather Zickel
Director: Jonathan Demme
» See full cast & crew
Rachel Getting Married Blu-ray Review
From a rather trivial story comes a rather cohesive film produced in rather high quality in 1080p.
Reviewed by Greg Maltz, March 19, 2009
Imagine an entire movie taking place in just one location with only a ghost of a beginning middle and end to the story. Jonathan Demme is adept at making something out of pretty much nothing. Sure, there is a wedding that takes place in Rachel Getting Married, and there are family dynamics, racial mixing, tension and personal history that plays into it, but for a bare-bones plot and production, Demme makes the viewer feel like they saw something really beefy when in fact it was anything but substantive. He also strikes the right balance of light and heavy--something he hasn't always done because of his social ideals that can come quite heavyhanded. This has been true since the start of Demme's career with Caged Heat, the 1974 drama about women in prison. Even in Rachel Getting Married there is an undercurrent of utopian racial embrace. It's certainly not subtle but it never rises to pretentious levels, either. Well, maybe it does in hindsight, but Demme strikes an admirable balance. The main draw of the film, of course, are the characters and the way Demme and the actors make each of them come alive with unique traits and personalities that mesh together in realistic and very uncomfortable ways. Anne Hathaway was nominated for an Oscar for her performance here, but the co-stars are admirable too. The camera shows the entire family affair unfold through the eye of a voyeur--a handheld approach to cinematography. Once you get used to the gentle jolting, the picture actually appears somewhat lush and defined on Blu-ray.
The story kicks off when recovering addict Kym (Anne Hathaway) comes home from a rehab clinic. She will return to rehab after she attends her sister Rachel's (Rosemarie DeWitt) wedding. Each member of Kym's family has a different response to her--not just because of her addiction but because of a dark family secret. Kym was responsible for the accidental drowning of the family's youngest sibling, Ethan. So it is no surprise that from the moment she returns, Kym becomes the center of attention in some ways rivalling the wedding itself. Rachel has chosen her best friend Emma (Anisa George) as the maid of honor, an obvious snub of her sister. Meanwhile, the father Paul (Bill Irwin) is overprotective of Kym to the point of neurosis, while mother Abby (Debra Winger) is as cold and distant as an expedition to the North Pole. While all this could have become a trainwreck in the hands of a different writer and director, screenwriter Jenny Lumet (daughter of the great filmmaker Sidney Lumet) and Demme wisely give the characters room to operate without forcing any resolution. The characters' behavior is generally atrocious and childish. It's designed to make the audience even more uncomfortable than the family and the design actually works.
Kym is an attention whore for lack of a better word. She knows her father will dote upon her, but she also has a deep-seated psychological need for unconditional love from the rest of her family. Unfortunately for her, the death of Ethan made that an impossibility because she lost everyone's trust and respect except Paul's. The tensions are palpable from start to finish and set the framework for each scene. Like all great character studies, the main issues facing Kym and her family are never resolved but merely struggle through various levels--from disregarding the problems to confronting them and lashing out. The latter serve up the most uncomfortable moments of Rachel Getting Married. Watching Kym's emotional confrontation with her mother is as uncomfortable and horrific as any John Carpenter slasher scene. The only thing missing is blood and severed limbs (Demme's Silence of the Lambs offers up that kind of action). The toast is another such scene, but it drags on even longer, and the other characters present make it all the more painful to watch. Despite these confrontational outbursts, most of the film is light, trivial fare in which the viewer is a voyeur, trying to read glances between the characters and taking a ride along with the rest of the wedding guests.
Rachel Getting Married Blu-ray, Video Quality
It's tough to know how to rate the picture quality of Rachel Getting Married. Recorded at least partially on Demme's high definition cam-of-choice, the Canon HV20, there is no feel of film. It is a very digital affair. The picture is not grainy but noisy. This is not the fault of the Blu-ray transfer, so why penalize its picture with a poor rating? The fact of the matter is that some elements of the PQ are surprisingly vivid, with strong colors that contribute to the unique style of the production. The definition is also good and the Blu-ray communicates emotions through facial expressions far better than standard definition, which is essential for a family drama like Rachel Getting Married. Unfortunately, the shadow detail and bright areas of the screen can be problematic and detail is sometimes lost in areas so bright they are almost washed out or dark areas that lack adequate shadow depth. Watch the scene in the bathroom as Rachel consoles Kym after her breakdown. The low light level contributes to noise and also saps the scene of detail. However, outdoor shots are lively and brilliant. Watch the scene where the bride cuts the cake. The intricate frosting pattern and rich blue color are rendered with surprising definition and vividness--at least when the camera isn't shaking wildly.
I'm not a fan of handheld cameras and Rachel Getting Married is a main offender in this style. The picture bobs, jolts, shakes and almost never stays still. Granted, this isn't a problem with the picture quality per se, but it does create constant motion blurs, even during sequences where no virtually no action occurs with the characters. It's distracting and annoying. Everyone knows what Demme is going for here: an intimate, voyeuristic family video type of experience. But I wish filmmakers would weigh the novelty of that approach against the rock steady experience of mounting cameras to show a scene. The handheld approach ultimately takes attention away from where it belongs, but once you get past that and the virtual lack of analog film-like qualities, the picture of Rachel Getting Married seems good.
Rachel Getting Married Blu-ray, Audio Quality
I enjoyed the Dolby TrueHD 24-bit 48 kHz audio track of Rachel Getting Married. My major complaint was the variable level of dialog and some muffling of words, but there was an honesty and simplicity in the recording that I appreciated more than the typical overly produced audio tracks of most modern movies. Demme uses ethnically flavored instrumentation to give his production some pep. He also mixes it with his own political leanings, employing Palestinian American Zafer Tawil, who is credited with the oud and qanun along with other stringed instruments. He plays the solo violin in "Wedding Waltz" and the slightly more exotic "Kym's Homecoming", and the peculiar "Ethan's Theme", which has a humming/groaning vocal effect underneath all the unfocused plucking. While the definition is good on all the instruments, the production values are rather bare bones, and the mixing is off a bit. The music tends to dominate and drown out the dialog but it does add to the off-beat, festive/manic quality to many of the scenes. As for the soundstage, virtually no content is assigned to the rear channels.
Rachel Getting Married Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The standout content of the supplementary material on Blu-ray are three featurettes.
A Look Behind the Scenes of Rachel Getting Married--Different than the standard on-set documentary, this featurette owes much to director Jonathan Demme's forthcoming demeanor. With no real pretentions or awkwardness, he discusses the intensely collaborative nature of the project and the unusual techniques he employed to create a very unique atmosphere. Demme discusses the way he used the screenplay as a trustworthy springboard to propel the movie and build details that brought it successfully to life. That was also Demme's explanation for establishing an authentic environment to shoot the film: a real house rather than a Hollywood set. And Demme's trademark is to use an eclectic racial mix of young and old actors and extras.
The Wedding Band--To provide more insight into the festive music chosen for the film, this featurette focuses on the many musicians cast to "score" the film live. Apparently, Demme just told these artists to improvise and turned on the cameras. This refreshingly honest approach to music could only be accomplished with live musicians recorded while shooting rather than adding the music during post production.
Cast and Crew Q&A at Jacob Burns Center--The centerpiece of the bonus content runs nearly an hour in length, featuring post-screening comments by Demme, his cinematographer, editor Timothy Squyres, producer Neda Armian and actors Bill Irwin and Mather Zickel. It's an informative and very warm gathering of talented and supportive artists.
Audio Commentary--The Blu-ray disc includes two full-length commentaries--one with producer Neda Armian, screenwriter Jenny Lumet, and editor Tim Squyers; the second commentary track includes only actress Rosemarie DeWitt. Fans of the movie will find both to be worth a listen as everyone involved seems to have an interesting perspective, whether told in technical details or anecdotes. It would have been nice to have Demme and Hathaway weigh in throughout these commentaries, but there is no sign of either of them.
Rounding out the supplementary content is about 15 minutes worth of deleted scenes. Undoubtedly, Demme has a lot more cutting-floor fodder than this, as he shot most of the movie in "real time". He was able to shape the movie more by editing than anything else.
Rachel Getting Married Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Fans of Jonathan Demme and especially those interested in family dramas will definitely want to check out Rachel Getting Married on Blu-ray. The picture and audio quality may not be excellent and the family issues may seem overdramatic, but it is a fine work of cinema. The Blu-ray communicates emotions very strongly, whether via facial cues or vocal tones. Above all, it is a good example of how Demme can make a big production out of a handheld camera and a single location. If you can stomach the melodrama, check it out.
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Rachel Getting Married Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Rachel Getting Married on Blu-ray - January 23, 2009
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has announced that they will bring the Anne Hathaway film 'Rachel Getting Married' to Blu-ray on March 10th, day-and-date with the DVD release. The release of this Academy-award nomiated film will feature 1.85:1 1080p AVC video ...
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