Thursday, April 23, 2009

DVD Recommendations: Rachel Getting Married and Bangkok Dangerous

Rachel Getting Married
According to the quotes on the DVD box David Edelstein from New York Magazine calls this “The best picture of the year!” A.O.Scott from the NYT says it has “authentic vitality, an exuberance of spirit,” and Owen Gleiberman says its “Grade A! A triumph!”
Who am I to disagree with them? I thought Rachel Getting Married was a good film but not by any means a great film. Jonathan Demme directed the film and you can generally count on Demmes’ films being worth watching and this was no exception. There were many interesting things about the movie. As tired as I am of wealthy northeasterner dysfunctional family wedding movies (Margot at the Wedding wasn’t that long ago) this one was slightly different. The groom-to-be was black and it was refreshing because there was no mention of the fact that it was an interracial marriage. All were happy for the couple. That was great. There was also a lot of interesting music, of different styles. That was nice. And although there didn’t appear to be any Hindi among the wedding party they ate Indian food and wore saris. So this was an untraditional wedding, tailored to the couple’s taste rather than following tradition. All of this was good. But when you look at the plot of the film it was really very simple. Kym (Rachel’s sister), who is an addict, is released from rehab for a weekend to participate in her sisters wedding. Participate she does, including visits to a nearby center to pee in a cup and attend meetings. The wedding ends and Kym goes back to rehab. Not a particularly dynamic plot. Anne Hathaway put her Princess Diary days behind her and gave a very strong performance as the troubled Kym. The love/hate relationship between the family and the black sheep daughter was ably presented. All is good, all is interesting, but I keep asking myself “What is the point?” I got to vicariously attend an interesting wedding and get inside the lives of a family. But what did I learn? That if you leave rehab to attend a family celebration it will be stressful. OK. I think I already knew that. This is my reaction to about 80% of all new films. I wonder if it’s still possible to create a film that is intelligent but still has a plot. I keep watching. I keep hoping.

Bangkok Dangerous
I can’t quite remember why I wanted to see this movie. I used to be a fan of Nicolas Cage back in the 90’s but his films have gotten too slick and/or too silly for my tastes since then. This one didn’t win my affection either. Cage plays a professional hitman. He goes to Bangkok for a job and breaks his own rules: he befriends the local nobody he has hired to help him (usually he kills his helpers after he finishes with them) and beyond that, he gets interested in a woman. You know early on how this film will end: tough guys who get soft, get dead. This plot, the killer who gets a conscience, is sooo tired. You’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. If you’re a fan of this particular overused plot, check out Leon, the Professional with Jean Reno and a young Natalie Portman or Kiss of the Dragon with Jet Li. They’re two of the best killer-with-a-conscience movies in my estimation.

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