That term first came to my mind when, as a child, I’d try to say “stream of consciousness” and end up with “brainflow.” It seems to fit here.

Welcome to the ramblings of my mind. (For now, these ones revolve mostly around films.)

Grizzly Man & Rachel Getting Married

Monday, May 18th, 2009 9:08 pm—Film

Grizzly Man (USA 2005, Documentary/Biography), Writer/Director: Werner Herzog

Rachel Getting Married (USA 2008, Drama/Romance), Writer: Jenny Lumet; Director: Jonathan Demme

Two quick write-ups of movies I saw last year that are wonderful and should be at the top of your rental lists.

Grizzly Man is a documentary about Timothy Treadwell, the grizzly bear enthusiast who spent over a dozen summers living among the bears until one fatally attacked him in 2003. This is by far one of the most moving films I’ve ever seen. I was brought to tears more than once.

Critics of the film have attacked Treadwill for abusing the animals by invading their space, and for showing tremendous arrogance in thinking he could cross nature’s boundaries. Those points might be more relevant if Grizzly Man were a documentary about grizzly bears. But it’s not. It’s a fascinating character study of a troubled man who took solace in animals when he couldn’t relate to society.

Using footage shot by Treadwell himself, visionary writer/director Werner Herzog takes us into Treadwell’s world and paints a picture of a lonely, delusional man who projected his own feelings onto the wild animals. Herzog has a gift for tampering with conventional filmmaking to create unique, special movies, and he more than delivers with Grizzly Man. I was blown away by what Herzog revealed simply by allowing Treadwell to contradict himself. The director didn’t abuse voiceover to pound home the message. Instead, he let Treadwell unveil his own mind and expose his failings and complexities.

One of the best examples of Treadwell’s delusion comes when he finds a bee perched motionless on a branch. With great anguish, he ponders the tragedy of the bee’s presumed death. Seconds later, when the bee takes flight, Treadwell finds great delight in the miracle that the bee is still alive. It’s so obvious that the bond he’s formed with nature has little, if anything, to do with the creatures themselves and almost everything to do with Treadwell’s needs.

Throughout Grizzly Man, the childlike Treadwell comes across as emotionally handicapped. In one of the film’s more personal moments, Treadwell laments that women don’t seem to understand him, and even goes so far as to say he wishes he were gay because women are so hard to get over. There’s an obvious disconnect from reality—or at least the reality that most of us can agree on.

In one scene, Treadwell sobs that the bears are “so fucked over.” But it’s clear he’s really crying for himself. He’s like a little boy desperate for love and approval, still clinging to the stuffed bear that brought him comfort as a child. Tragically for Treadwell, he continued to live in an imagined reality well into adulthood. He found love and devotion in the bears’ eyes, where others saw only detachment and the inevitability of what was to come.

Rachel Getting Married is another film from a director who isn’t afraid of taking risks. Jonathan Demme has shown his versatility by tackling a range of different films (Silence of the Lambs, Beloved), and with the documentary-style Rachel Getting Married, he shows his talent for naturalism.

The film follows Kym (Anne Hathaway) as she takes a break from rehab to attend her sister Rachel’s (Rosemarie DeWitt) wedding. This is family dysfunction at its best. You truly feel like a guest at the wedding, invited to glimpse the baggage as it’s unpacked—sometimes tidily, other times hurled around the room at breakneck speed. But there are also lovely, fun, happy moments, like the competitive dishwasher-loading scene.

Several years ago, Anne Hathaway became one of the actors I’d see a movie for, and Rachel Getting Married definitely solidifies that. The movie is full of wonderful performances, but it’s Hathaway who grounds—and steals—the show.

I highly recommend this one. My only (minor) complaint is that I wasn’t left with a strong feeling after the movie ended. Like a real wedding, it’s easy to get caught up in the mood while watching it. But in the end, I’m not sure I took too much away from it. Still, it’s a moving, convincing experience while it lasts. And you can be grateful that, at the end of the night, you get to go home to a family with a lot less baggage. Well, in some cases, anyway. 😉

One Response

  1. Brittany

    Great review! I’ve been wanting to see Rachel getting married. 🙂

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