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Stop Making Nonsense

Rachel Getting Married (2008)

Bob Vergara/Sony Pictures Classics

Dear Jonathan Demme,

You made one heck of a thriller, “The Silence of the Lambs,” back in 1991 and inspired a slew of hyper-stylized detective thrillers such as “Seven.” But whatever cache or goodwill you earned with critics and moviegoers you’ve surely squandered away in the ensuing 17 years. It’s understandable that the mechanisms of the genre probably bore you to death. But if “The Manchurian Candidate” remake is any indication, thrillers are seemingly the only kind of films you excel at. Unfortunately, you’ve allowed your bleeding liberal heart to get the best of you.

The phrase “a Jonathan Demme picture” used to evoke the visage of Anthony Hopkins having a couple of prison guards for dinner, but now it stands for something far more nauseating and much less arresting. We get it. Really, we do. You have compassion for gays and blacks. Especially blacks. You were willing to overlook reputed homophobe Denzel Washington talking Will Smith out of lip-locking a dude in “Six Degrees of Separation” to cast him in your gay/AIDS/Maria Callas opus, “Philadelphia.” Then you went all Steven Spielberg on us with “Beloved,” presumably drunk on the Oprah-fed Toni Morrison Kool-Aid. Then you made “The Truth about Charlie,” the whole point of which was to make a case for Thandie Newton to be this generation’s Audrey Hepburn.

Which brings us to your latest, “Rachel Getting Married.” It’s mind-boggling that Jenny Lumet’s sorry cliché-ridden excuse for a screenplay actually caught your fancy in the first place, unless you saw it as yet another opportunity to live out your fantasy of a utopian colorblind world. In fact, your treatment of a mixed-race couple and its large, interracial extended family is the only thing remotely noteworthy about this film, the obnoxiously petulant Anne Hathaway character notwithstanding.

You’ve depicted the holy union between Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) and Sidney (Tunde Adebimpe) so matter-of-factly that they are as boring and nondescript as any monoracial couple, save for the fact that they wear Indian saris to the wedding, and the evening’s entertainment includes jazz and slam poetry. Indeed, the conflicts in the film arise not from race, but from Rachel’s attention-starved, they-tried-to-make-me-go-to-rehab-but-I-said-no-no-no sister Kym (Ms. Hathaway). Aside from this lovely façade of racial harmony, your picture is really just another trite chick flick about sisterhood. Mr. Demme, perhaps you were prescient, and maybe we are seeing the first glimpses of a world where race isn’t an issue. After all, the country has elected its first “mutt” president, so hopefully you can from now on turn your attention to finding material better suited for your talent.

Ming-hung Akihiro Martin-Aubert Tsai


Opened on Oct. 3 in Manhattan.

Directed by Jonathan Demme; written by Jenny Lumet; director of photography, Declan Quinn; edited by Tim Squyres; music by Zafer Tawil and Donald Harrison, Jr.; production designer, Ford Wheeler; produced by Mr. Demme, Neda Armian and Marc Platt; released by Sony Pictures Classics. Running time: 1 hour 54 minutes. This film is rated R.

WITH: Anne Hathaway (Kym), Rosemarie DeWitt (Rachel), Bill Irwin (Paul), Tunde Adebimpe (Sidney), Mather Zickel (Kieran) and Debra Winger (Abby).


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