Rachel Getting Married (R, 2008, Sony Pictures Classics)
“Rachel Getting Married” is, in fact and quite exhaustively, about Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) getting married. It’s also about all such a marriage entails, including the reception, the ceremony, the rehearsal dinner, final preparations, and Rachel’s sister Kym (Anne Hathaway), who has received a brief reprieve from rehab to drop all sorts of accidental and behavioral bombs on the entire proceeding. Wondering why Kym is in rehab? Don’t worry; you’ll find out. “Married’s” 113-minute runtime has a serious infatuation with introspection, dedicating as much time to pure mundanity as it gives to the deconstruction of Kym, her bride-to-be sister and various members of both wedding parties, including characters you’ll never really meet who nonetheless command multiple minutes of screen time. Seriously, take heed: If movies that take their sweet time irritate you, “Married” will institutionalize you. But that’s the tack this film takes, and the upshot is that, if you can tolerate (or better yet, appreciate) such behavior, you almost doubtlessly will find yourself absorbed by it as well. “Married” leaves little to the imagination, but it also doesn’t close itself off to anyone, and the degree to which you’ll feel like you know the Buchmans and their guests after two hours’ time is a serious testament to the film’s methods. Bill Irwin, Tunde Adebimpe, Mather Zickel, Anna Deavere Smith, Debra Winger also star.
Extras: Filmmaker commentary, cast commentary, deleted scenes, cast/crew Q&A, two behind-the-scenes features.
Milk (R, 2008, Focus/Universal)
Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) said it himself: The movement is the candidate, not him. In “Milk” — a true story based on events that shook up San Francisco in the 1970s — that movement is equal basic rights for gay Americans. On paper, the whole exercise seems pretty rote: Tell the story of how a do-nothing fortysomething became the first openly gay man elected to major public office, and illustrate the predictable ways that rise transformed the environment that bore witness to it. But as with any good biopic — and, in a way, like Harvey Milk himself — “Milk” isn’t just about the guy whose name appears on the box or the causes he represents. The film does a fine job of illustrating both, but its real shining glory is the credence it lends to that old adage about it never being too late to change lives, including your own. Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin, Diego Luna, James Franco and Alison Pill also star.
Extras: Deleted scenes, Milk retrospective, two behind-the-scenes features.
Happy-Go-Lucky (R, 2008, Miramax)
There certainly is some truth in advertising at work with “Happy-Go-Lucky,” which is a movie more in the technical sense than the traditional sense. “Lucky” is about Poppy (Sally Hawkins), a schoolteacher whose clumsy disposition and penchant for social awkwardness is matched only by her inhumanly cheerful demeanor. She drives her driving instructor (Eddie Marsan) crazy, chats up random strangers who may not necessarily talk back, puzzles a dancing instructor (Karina Fernandez) to her own great delight, and basically roars through life while her contemporaries grumble, shrug and occasionally blow a vein. And that, for the most part, is all “Lucky” is about. Stuff absolutely happens, but it isn’t necessarily the stuff that matters so much as how the characters deal with it. That’s the beauty of the whole thing, too. Find Poppy’s demeanor infectious and her brand of comedy hilarious, and you can simply ride “Lucky” out in awe of her. On the other hand, if she aggravates you to no end, the film offers no shortage of characters through which you can see those frustrations materialize. And if you find yourself rooting for one side versus the other, fear not: While “Lucky” isn’t overtly plot-driven, it sneaks a story arc in there, and that arc provides a startling payoff for both sides. Sarah Niles, Alexis Zegerman, Samuel Roukin, Andrea Riseborough, Sinead Matthews and Kate O’Flynn also star.
Extras: Director commentary, two behind-the-scenes features.
Role Models: Unrated (NR, 2008, Universal)
These are special times for the comedy genre — so much so, in fact, that it’s easy to take a film for granted when it has your usual assortment of misbehaving male leads (Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott, in this case) and some assortment of Elizabeth Banks, Ken Marino, Jane Lynch and Kerri Kenney doing what they reliably do. “Role Models” doesn’t help itself with its premise, either. Danny (Rudd) and Wheeler (Scott) have to take on big brother roles in order to pay their debt to society and avoid jail time, and haven’t we gone down this road a thousand times already? And is anyone surprised that one of the little brothers (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is a teenage geek while the other is a smack-talking little nightmare (Bobb’e J. Thompson)? Of course not, but it doesn’t really matter. “Models” uses its plot as a cheap means more than an end, and that’s good enough to make way for a funny script and let a bunch of funny actors do what they do so well. Everything here — from the gaggle of Medieval role-playing nerds to the wisecracking authority figure with a hysterically checkered past (Lynch, of course) — has been done elsewhere, but “Models” attacks these tire ideas with a special level of focus that makes them its own.
Extras: Writer/director commentary, deleted scenes, outtakes, three behind-the-scenes features, bloopers.
Marie and Bruce (R, 2004, Weinstein Company)
A script written for a play is different than a script written for a movie, and even if you can’t explain the differences, it doesn’t take a genius to spot them. That much is evident during “Marie and Bruce’s” toxic nine-minute opening spree, which finds Marie (Julianne Moore) verbally savaging a seemingly socially clueless husband (Matthew Broderick) who very visibly has driven her past the point of intolerant. The gradual massacre of a marriage is unmistakable fodder for storytelling in any medium, and while “Bruce” piles it on thick early on, a little intelligent blowback could have made the film work on some darkly comic level. But “Bruce” has no such aspiration. Instead, it just gets weird — inaccessibly, puzzlingly weird, climaxing with an unbearably long party scene that’s punctuated by dream sequences and the agonizing ramblings of party guests in which we’re covertly trained to take zero interest. Soon, it’s apparent “Bruce’s” dialogue isn’t merely a bad fit for a movie, but just plain bad. No one talks like this, on stage or on film, and “Bruce” offers 91 minutes’ worth of reasons why. No extras.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (PG-13, 2008, Miramax)
The tagline — “Lines may divide us, but hope will unite us” — sure reads like light, feel-good philosophy. At the outset, “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” seems poised to embrace it, too. Bored son (Asa Butterfield) of Nazi solder (David Thewlis) meets Jewish boy (Jack Scanlon) living in concentration camp, the two share words through a fence that divides them, and a curious friendship built on blissful ignorance develops. For a considerable majority of its running time, this is the story “Pajamas” seems to be telling, interspersing simple exchanges between two kids with an occasionally bold but generally benign exploration of what happens when a soldier’s orders and his family start butting heads. The whole thing is a bit underwhelming — perhaps due to the kids’ limited face time, or perhaps because the influx of British accents keeps denting the illusion. But it’s also fairly harmless … until it isn’t. It’s safe to assume “Pajamas” was made with the best of intentions, and perhaps what happens at the end of the film is a device meant to convey the full weight of what, up until then, was more discussed than addressed. But if you haven’t read the book and found yourself drawn to the film because of that hopeful tagline or the saccharine box art featuring two innocent kids sitting in a grassy field, the last impression “Pajamas” leaves is a chilling slap to the face. The real theme at play is what happens to people the moment they realize they’ve made a mistake they can’t unmake. Once you see where “Pajamas'” final minutes are headed, you might know firsthand what that’s like.
Extras: Writer/director/author commentary, deleted scenes (with commentary), behind-the-scenes feature.