Saturday, February 21, 2015

Oscar Movie Review: "Rachel, Rachel" (1968)

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Movie"Rachel, Rachel"
Year Nominated: 1969
Director: Paul Newman
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 41 minutes
Did It Win?: No.

Rachel (Joanne Woodward) is a 35 year old single school teacher who lives with her slightly overbearing mother (Kate Harrington). Rachel is unsure about what she wants out of life and is suffering from a mid-life crisis of sorts. She must decide if she wants to continue with her mundane life or make a drastic change onto a different path.  

We have had this movie on our DVR for over 6 months, waiting for February to watch and review it. This film isn't so much an actual story as it is a character sketch about Rachel as a person. Rachel clearly has emotional problems due to growing up in a funeral home, not to mention that the community where she and her family lived were hit with a rash of child deaths that she witnessed first hand due to widespread illness when she was young. On top of these obviously compounded emotional problems, she has to take care of her aging, abrasive and overbearing mother, who clearly values Rachel's sister more than her, even though her sister doesn't visit ever since she had kids of her own. This movie begins and ends the same way as we see Rachel's day-to-day life, along with flashes of her inner thoughts and fantasies. She has an obsession with death and often thinks of dying, which stems obviously from growing up in a funeral home. She also thinks about the prospect of being a parent, as well as standing up to her mother or her boss in epic fashions. These thoughts are portrayed as voice-overs or little cut away scenes, which sometimes necessitates the audience to stop and think if what we are seeing is actually happening, or if it is just her fantasy, because sometimes, it's hard to differentiate between her fantasy and reality. The movie starts off at a pretty slow pace and only picks up a little bit towards the middle after a rather intense Evangelical church scene. This scene is really the film's only saving grace, and after that, it peters out again after a short time. Rachel has a relationship with a man named Nick, played by James Olson, who to us, comes off as a self-centered jerk from the get-go and never redeems himself, but her insecurities as a woman who is unsure of herself allows him to take advantage of her time and time again. The movie also deals with some hot button issues for the time, like pregnancy to unwed mothers, discussions about having an abortion by those same unwed mothers, and it even hints at homosexuality, though it is never fully discussed or brought up again after the church scene. Bringing up issues like this are probably what garnered it such critical acclaim, as well as it's Oscar nomination, in 1968. Now, though these issues can be seen as controversial to some, they are much less so. Joanne Woodward does give a good performance as Rachel, which earned her a Golden Globe win and an Oscar Nomination, and the film deals with some real human issues, but the slow pacing and lack of any really engaging story or characters does knock it back quite a bit. It's a fine enough film, but definitely got lost in the times.

My Rating: 6.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 6.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 86%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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