Recent Oscar nominee and erstwhile multi-disciplined player Anne Hathaway has reportedly signed on to play Judy Garland in two adaptations of her life story. The actual story will, fairly obviously, be the same, but Hathaway will play Garland on both stage and screen in the respective adaptations of Gerald Clarke’s biography Get Happy: The Judy Garland Story.
Cinematical reports that the book was compiled from hundreds of interviews conducted by Clarke and work done previously for Garland’s unfinished autobiography. This could provide an interesting filmic adaptation as autobiographies tend to lean to the side of either self-aggrandisement or at least a perception that the person has of themselves outside of their famed personas. This will probably be tempered by Clarke’s input but it could still provide an unseen insight into how Garland viewed herself.
Given the untimely and sad demise of Garland, Hathaway will get her second chance in not too long to play a woman addicted to substances and painfully thin, two attributes of Hathaway’s character in Rachel Getting Married which secured that Oscar nod. She definitely has a similar look to Garland also, not to mention her own place as a child star working to make it in the adult world, which she has had some real success in doing, and her aforementioned multi-disciplined string of attributes, notably her singing.
There were some suggestions when the news was announced that this is a major play by Hathaway to get herself an Oscar, perhaps feeling somewhat stung after the foregone conclusion win for Kate Winslet at the last awards. Whether that’s the case or not, this is a real chance for Hathaway to show off some acting chops and, if it really is the case, we all know by now that the Academy loves a good biopic performance, especially those in which troubled icons of the arts world are being portrayed.
Rachel Getting Married
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Bill Irwin, Debra Winger,Mather Zickel, Tunde Adebimpe, Anna Deavere Smith
Director: Jonathan Demme
Writer: Jenny Lumet
Anne Hathaway has long seemed like she was seeking a breakout role to burst out of matinee status and into the accepted upper echelons of the film world. Her role here as Kim is absolutely the one to take her there and shares much in common with Mickey Rourke’s turn in The Wrestler. Hathway’s desire to move into the elite early in her relatively storied career indicates a desire for acceptance and love, a perfect fit with the recovering drug-addict and self-destructively needy Kim.
The film follows the wedding of Rachel, played beautifully by Rosemarie DeWitt and sister of Kim, who finally seeks to have her day in the limelight of the family after a life lived in the shadow of the higher maintenance Kim. But Kim is coming home for the days around and on the wedding, attending meetings and screwing the best man while commanding all the attention of her broken but resilient father, again played with a sense of kindness that endears throughout by Bill Irwin.
Demme employs a handheld camera to place us within the fighting and barbed comments of the family and the tactic proves highly effective. The film has a great deal of momentum as it builds thematically, increasing the tension and uncomfortable nature of scenes constantly until a heart-stopping emotional release. Lumet’s script also reveals information cleverly, not holding back any grand reveals or any other forms of convolution, rather just allowing the basic drama of the events she had created to burn through.
Up until the actual wedding, this is very close to a perfect distillation of the discomfort felt by most when forced to spend time with family with all of the difficult history and unspoken annoyance and anger that goes along with that. But the wedding scene beats the momentum out of the film before a key scene between the daughters and the damaged mother, a welcome return for Debra Winger. The montage of band after band goes on for far too long and you end up being taken out of the film by the constant barrage of music. It’s understandable that Demme wanted to provide us with a real feeling of the wedding and maybe it was all a comment about the Connecticut attitude of the family, attempting to exhibit a love of alternative and world culture whilst residing in the hedge fund capital of the world. Maybe that’s the aim, but it just kills the excellent structure up to that point.
The acting is uniformly strong with both Hathaway and DeWitt moving more towards being exceptional. DeWitt’s role is the more difficult, having to play second fiddle to Hathaway’s Kim and constantly provide the teetering emotional foil, the family rock who continues to love her sister despite her actions in the past. Hathaway though is absolutely outstanding. Demme uses her features with great skill, her big eyes and big mouth both are used as signifiers of her desire for understanding and love. He uses Hathaway’s obvious beauty cleverly by juxtaposing this with both the ignorant and difficult language she uses, mostly for effect rather than any malice. It’s a perfect synergy of directorial and writing vision with breakthrough acting which will deservedly take Hathaway into the annuls of the best in her generation.
Without that annoying moment towards the end when the structure falls in on itself, this is a very good if emotionally jarring film and Demme’s best since Silence of the Lambs.