Knight at the Movies Archives
Two Terrific Indies: Ann Hathaway heads a great ensemble cast in Rachel Getting Married, so does Chad Allen in Save Me
Rehabilitation and its success and misuse are at the center of two illuminating, performance driven indies opening this week. Rachel
Getting Married is director Jonathan Demme’s anticipated return to feature films after a series of documentaries and Save Me from gay
director Robert Cary stars openly gay actors Chad Allen, Robert Gant and longtime friend of the GLBT community, “Ugly Betty’s”
In Rachel Getting Married, Anne Hathaway of The Devil Wears Prada and The Princess Diaries plays Kym, giving a career altering
performance. She’s a struggling drug addict coming out of a five month rehab stint to attend her sister’s wedding. Kym is
immediately introduced as a cranky bundle of nerves, quick with the biting retort while proclaiming her “Victim” status. Arriving at the
Connecticut home of her father (Bill Irwin in a masterful performance) and stepmother (Anna Deavere Smith) she’s confronted with a
houseful of indifferent family friends focused on the wedding at hand instead of her arrival. Old wounds are almost immediately
trotted out – Kym and her problems having long been the focal point for the family – the father fusses over her too much, Rachel
(“Mad Men’s” Rosemarie Dewitt who manages to be graceful and steely at the same time) is jealous of the attention Kym’s addiction
has gotten, etc. When Debra Winger (in a welcome return to the screen) as the mother, who keeps herself at a pleasant but icy
distance, shows up it’s apparent from her first interaction with Kym that there’s much more complicated stuff ahead.
Demme, working with a marvelously detailed, first time script by Jenny Lumet, has had the movie shot with a handheld camera like
“Cops” or a cheesy reality show and the jerkiness takes some getting used to. But slowly the in your face style pays off and the
movie gets to such an intimate place you feel like another family member witnessing the emotional explosions and scabs being
picked over. As in life, some of the problems get addressed while many go back underground to be revisited again at a later date.
The improvisatory feel to many of the scenes brings out the best in the wonderful cast, a catch as catch can approach that harkens
back to Demme’s pre-Silence of the Lambs pictures that electrifies what in other hands would have been mundane (a confrontation
between Hathaway and Winger is unforgettable). Like Demme’s early pictures – Something Wild, Married to the Mob, etc. – the drama
is interwoven with a seductive succession of diverse cultural touches – music, dress, food, fashion. Demme’s approach is that of a
sensualist and with this mixture of familial drama and embrace of cultural richness Rachel at the Wedding captures what has to be one
of the coolest and most emotionally enthralling wedding celebrations ever. It’s simply a great movie.
Also great is Save Me, the story of Mark (Chad Allen) a drug and sex addicted party boy who is offered a last chance at redemption
after an overdose by his brother – via an ex-gay halfway house run by the firm, no nonsense but compassionate Gayle (Judith Light)
a conservative Christian missionary and her gentle mannered husband Ted (Stephen Lang). “We specialize in ‘sexual brokenness’”
Gayle tells Mark and seeing a lifeline, Mark enters the program. The other “patients” espouse the party line, doing their best to
rationalize the innate gayness out of their souls while watching each other for “inappropriate touching.”
Nevertheless, Mark, who has never had a relationship, finds himself drawn to Scott (“Queer as Folks” Robert Gant) and vice versa but
Gayle also sees the growing attraction and is determined to keep the two from regressing to their former sinful “lifestyle.”
Save Me covers the same territory explored from the lesbian point of view in the darkly comic But I’m a Cheerleader! (the two will make
a very entertaining double feature) but its nuanced approach and excellent, complex performances by the three leads (who also
produced) help elevate the familiarity of the ex-gay movement material. Light is especially compelling as Gayle, so emotionally
damaged by the loss of her gay son that she’s channeled it all into this ex-gay halfway house and a constant flow of religious psycho
babble. Save Me is a moving character drama that tackles a controversial subject with compassion and insight. Here after a long dry
spell is an example of queer filmmaking at its best. Hallelujah my gay brethren!
They Tried to Make Me Go to Rehab:
Rachel Getting Married-Save Me
10-8-08 Knight at the Movies Column
By Richard Knight, Jr.