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Vermaak | Entertainment > Film > Resensies | Reviews

Reel time: Rachel getting married and Gran Tarino

Reney Warrington - 2009-05-07

Rachel getting married

What a beautifully crafted, intelligent, complicated, perfectly cast masterpiece of a film. Yes, it deserves all of that.

The way it was filmed
Imagine sticking all your relatives around a dinner table. Chaos reigns for the first quarter, because everyone talks at once and personalities clash. Until you decide which conversations and personalities are interesting enough and focus on individual stories and people.

Rachel getting married was filmed in exactly this manner. Handheld cameras create the first crazy quarter of the rehearsal dinner. You don't hear some of the dialogue, people butt in, angles change pretty quickly and the camera jumps from one scene to the next with no apparent order. Utter chaos.

The director then moves his key actors away from the chaos and zooms in on dialogues and characters and the filming technique becomes less frenetic.

The two mothers
Jonathan Demme has created a film where the two most important characters, the two mothers, the antithesis of each other, hardly appear in the film.

Debra Winger, as the distant biological mother, appears on screen for no more than ten minutes. It is her absence, though, which demonstrates the disastrous effect of being an emotionally disconnected mother, which is the essence of this film.

Anna Deavere Smith, as the ever watchful stepmother, has roughly two lines of dialogue, but you remember her loving, warm presence distinctly and her influence on the two sisters is apparent. She was also perfectly cast because her face exudes love, empathy and caring.

Changing your mind for you
Kym, Anna Hathaway's character, is easy to dislike from the start. Your contempt for her grows consistently until you can't stand the sight of her. Three-quarters through the film, though, Demme uses one line, in a confrontation between mother and daughter, to give you sudden, unexpected insight into and huge empathy for the tragic Kym.

Even though Rachel is an intense family drama that doesn't give "easy" answers and pulls and pokes at all your own demons, it doesn't drain you and leave you exhausted like Revolutionary Road. In fact, you leave the cinema with a sense of hope.

Gran Tarino

Before calling Gran Tarino an endearing, incredibly funny and refreshingly un-schmaltzy film, I have to state up front that I am not at all objective when it comes to Clint Eastwood as a director. No, I simply love his movies - from Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River, Letters from Iwo Jima and Flags of Our Fathers to the endearing Space Cowboys. There was no way I was not going to love his latest offering.

Having declared that, I can comfortably say the key to the success of Gran Tarino is the humour.

First of all, it makes you laugh. Walt Kowalsky, a retired Ford factory worker, tells it the way I wanna tell it when sitting on my porch, in old age, washing down way too many Windhoek Lights. He mutters hilarious profanities at whoever is closest and when the situation is too much for him to handle he merely utters a very effective, well-timed growl.

Secondly, it takes the "sting" out of Walt's knee-jerk racism. Because he is funny, you end up liking him despite his prejudices. This allows the director to take the viewer beyond Walt's prejudices and depict a more complex character.

Thirdly, the humour makes Gran Tarino very gritty. The one-liners are hardcore and authentic to Walt's ex-soldier, gun-toting, no-nonsense character. Without them the film could have easily been boring.

What impressed me most about this film was that Eastwood did not go "Hollywood" halfway through by making Walt confess his sins, break down and become a weepy, schmaltzy Steven Spielberg character.

Well done, Clint.