How Older, White Critics Have Missed the Boat on 'Rachel Getting Married'Most of the attention paid to Jonathan Demme's new film Rachel Getting Married has centered on the Oscar-buzzed lead performance from Anne Hathaway, but many critics are consumed with something the movie treats as a non-event: the fact that the titular Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) is marrying a black man, Sidney (Tunde Adebimpe of the band TV on the Radio). The interracial nature of their relationship goes unremarked upon throughout the entire film, and that fact that is vexing several film critics, who dismiss such a notion as a fantasy. Enjoy their thinly veiled discomfort with the shocking idea that white people can marry black people in 2008 without someone giving a speech about it, after the jump!Over at Hollywood Elsewhere, Jeff Wells titled his post about the matter "Not Supposed to Say," claiming that "movie critics haven't come within 20 feet of mentioning this [unremarked-on interracial marriage] in their reviews." We're not sure what critics Wells is reading, but a boatload of the ones we've looked at mention exactly that — and they do it in a way that seems to beg for someone to bestow an aura of au courant hipness on their courageously un-PC observations. Both EW's Owen Gleiberman and New Yorker film critic Anthony Lane take great pains to mention the film's unmentioned racial diversity, though to hear Lane discuss it, it sounds like he'd rather be watching a blunt parable like Crash. "The wedding party is the ultimate guide to Demme’s benign vision: the groom is black, the bride is white, she and her bridesmaids are dressed in saris, [and] nobody so much as mentions race," says Lane. "I don’t know if there were any Republican voters involved in this movie, but, if so, it must have been a lonely time." Ok, yes, some Republicans are racist — but damn, Anthony! Are you really implying that conservatives can never be bred within a cultural melting pot? Worse is Wells, who virtually calls Demme a fetishist of all things African, rattling off some of the black characters Demme has previously included in his oeuvre before concluding:
So it feels very Demme-ish that the union that's endlessly celebrated in Rachel Getting Married, his latest feature, is between a very alabaster lassie (Rosemarie DeWitt, playing Rachel) and a handsome Afrique-ebony guy (musician Tunde Adebimpe, playing Sidney the groom). It's also a very Demme thing that nobody so much as mentions this. You can say "well, why would anybody mention it?" and I'd take your point, of course. We all like to see ourselves as color-blind. My point is that in real life someone in the wedding party would at one point or another throw some kind of slider ball — something anecdotal, flip, netural, whatever— into the proceedings. In the same way someone would say "oh, it's raining" if a cloudburst were to happen. My other point is that such a remark (which wouldn't necessarily be coarse or gauche ) is verboten in a Demme film because it doesn't reflect his values or sensibilities. ...If the blunt-spoken alcoholic played by Howard Duff in Robert Altman's A Wedding (1978) had been invited to Rachel and Sidney's wedding, he would have said something or other, trust me. Because he was the kind of wealthy middle- aged guy who didn't give a shit because he was always half in the bag.
Why, though, does it need to be said? One might think that by the time Rachel and Sidney had gotten married, their families would have gotten used to the idea that they were of separate races (in fact, Rachel's divorced father has since remarried a black woman, and screenwriter Jenny Lumet is the product of an interracial marriage herself). Are these critics really unable to set aside their apparent discomfort with the idea unless an on-screen surrogate points out the obvious? What if Rachel's family were Latin (imagine Penelope Cruz donning Anne Hathaway's smudged eyeliner instead) — would their non-white, mixed marriage suddenly become less of an issue for these older, Caucasian film critics? Guys, there's plenty of actual criticisms to be made about Rachel Getting Married (won't someone address the interminable sequence that is the dish-washing competition?). Why don't you stick to film critique and leave the awkward investigation of racial dynamics where it belongs — at a Sarah Palin rally?