Into the Wild. Always nice to watch a movie about something I would never do ... you learn something! Sean Penn is kinder to his subject than Herzog was to his in Grizzly Man ... well, Herzog was his own subject in many ways, but you know what I mean. Chris McCandless comes across as more of an idealist than as an obsessive nutcase. In the end, of course, he was probably both. Penn doesn't shy away from either aspect of McCandless, although nature seems a bit too sweet considering how it ends, and McCandless' various encounters along his journey seem a bit benevolent. But the overall effect is interesting, if not inspiring (and I'm not sure it SHOULD be inspiring). Hal Holbrook is fine, although I'm puzzled at the raves his performance elicited. It's good, but no better than the one offered by non-actor Brian H. Dierker as the hippie partner of Catherine Keener (great as always). There is plenty of good acting here, including Holbrook's ... I just don't buy that he was markedly better than everyone else. #188 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 250 films of the 21st century. 8/10.
Rachel Getting Married. Anne Hathaway justly received an Oscar nomination for her turn as Kym, sister of the titular Rachel. I was reminded a bit of Jennifer Connelly in Requiem for a Dream ... gorgeous Hollywood model/actress takes on role as a junkie and pulls it off beyond our wildest expectations. Or maybe it's only me and expectations. Stupid as it is, I am still more surprised than I should be when a beautiful actor or actress turns out to also be a GOOD actor or actress (see Helfer, Tricia). Hathaway's rehearsal dinner toast is more excruciating than the worst scene in The Office ... you don't just cringe, you want it to end, right now, and Jonathan Demme lets it go just long enough. The family dynamics in general feel authentic, and Hathaway is raw and not always likable. The wedding itself is interesting ... not everyone agreed, some critics thought the movie was far too long because it spent so much time dawdling over the preparations and ceremonies, but I liked the documentary approach. #141 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 250 films of the 21st century. 8/10.