Racial Dodge?

This is going to sound a little strange, and it’s definitely way late. But something hit me this evening as I was looking at the front cover of the Rachel Getting Married Blu-ray, which comes out March 10th. It’s odd that I never noticed it before since the jacket photo art is the exact same photo art used for the theatrical one-sheet. Anyway…

Rachel, as we all know, is played by Rosemarie DeWitt, and the guy she’s getting married to in the film is a bit of a dullard named Sidney, played by Tunde Adebimpe. And Anne Hathaway‘s character, of course, is Kym, Rachel’s older sister who suffering from guilt trips and drug-abuse problems.

Anne/Kym has the closeup on the right, of course, and Rosemarie/Rachel is the much smaller, out-of-focus woman in the background dressed in a flowing gown and carrying a floral bouquet. The guy standing next to her, one would presume, is her fiance. But it’s not, of course. It’s some white guy, presumably Bill Irwin, who played Rachel’s dad in the film.

I think the Sony ad guys put Irwin (or some other unfocused white guy) next to Rachel so as not to raise the interracial marriage issue on the poster. I think they did that as a kind of dodge. Think about it for four or five seconds. The movie’s title refers to a marriage and yet the guy Rachel is standing next to in her wedding gown is not the guy she’s marrying. This doesn’t seem a wee bit strange?

You can say it doesn’t matter because Rachel has a close relationship with her dad in the film (true enough) and dads do give their daughters away in marriage ceremonies so why can’t he stand next to her? I get that, okay, maybe. But consider a flipside view.


Rear-jacket shot used for Rachel Blu-ray.

Let’s imagine that Rachel Getting Married is a slightly different film in which Rachel is getting married to some white guy but her stepdad, with whom she has a very close and affectionate relationship, is African American. Let’s go one further and say that the stepdad is the most important relationship in Rachel’s life except for the one she’s about to embark upon with her new husband. Now, what are the odds that the Sony ad guys, wanting to reflect the emotional underpinnings of the film, would put a small, out-of-focus African American guy next to Rachel in the background?

You can say, “Okay, but look at the back of the Blu-ray jacket and there’s a photo of Rachel and Sidney together! Doesn’t that rebut your point?” Partly, I would answer, but not that much. For the photo they’ve chosen shows Adebimpe’s left profile with most of his face covered by Roisemarie DeWitt’s right hand. All you can see of his face is his forehead, which, okay, is dark. But it seems to me that they chose a photo with allows the casual viewer to not necessarily grasp what’s going on.

  • ZayTonday

    wtf sony?

  • arturobandini2

    Of course, you’re right on the money. Advertising is filled with insidious little details that aren’t immediately detectable to the naked eye and ear — but once you catch on, you’ll notice subtle brainwashing everywhere. It’s all calibrated toward maintaining an image of the status quo at all costs. People who challenge that notion don’t last long in the advertising world.

    What I find equally disturbing about this poster is they felt the need to Photoshop every line, crease and imperfection out of the face of an attractive 25-year-old. This is just wrong. It looks like a Halloween mask of Anne Hathaway.

  • CanCan

    Great observation. Spot on.

  • qwiggles

    I agree with your reasoning, of course, and I think the photo on the back is telling, but I think one thing is amiss: Bill Irwin is plainly recognizable on the poster if you’ve seen the film. He’s unmistakably not “some white guy.”

    Anyway, what a dreadful poster. Kym seems to be laying provocatively on a field as her father is en route to give away her sister in the background. Spatially incoherent.

  • EnglishBob

    I get what you’re saying and pretty much agree with it; but looking closely at that cover, I think my first impression would be that it’s a bride being given away. It’s the bouquet, I think. Also, if you really want to get subliminal and everything….the title IS “Rachel GETTING Married’…so chances are the guy on the cover isn’t her hubby.

    I think you’re spot on about the back cover, however.

  • CitizenKanedforChewingGum

    Good catch here, Wells.

    I can only imagine the marketing discussions…pretty nauseating food for thought, there.

  • alynch

    I don’t know, Wells. You might very well be right, but when I saw that image, my first thought was that the man next to the bride must be her father. And I haven’t seen the film so this my pure first impression without context. Not for a second did I think that man was the groom. You can tell by their posture that they’re walking, so I just assumed that it was father walking daughter down the aisle.

  • Edward

    The front cover and the back picture don’t even give a hint of what this brilliant film is really like. One of the year’s best.

  • Deathtongue_Groupie

    All this might mean something if not for the fact the writer and director have both said they wanted the interracial aspect to be a trivial part of the film, that should recede into the background. The fact that the audience should then catch itself looking for the characters to react might then say much about their own sensitivities to race.

    There was much discussion of this when the film came out, so, yeah, you are very late to the party about this issue.

  • DarthCorleone

    Any or all of this might be true (particularly Deathtongue’s comment, which I do recall reading elsewhere in publicity related to the film), but – just to play devil’s advocate in this discussion – could it make more sense with respect to the relationship dynamics in the film to place the father on the cover instead of the groom?

    I haven’t seen the movie, so I don’t know what it stresses. Speculating based on what I do know, though, Anne’s character (shown here looking disaffected, alienated, pensive, or whatnot) is the family’s black sheep, right? Hence, her status as an outsider and her inadequacies in her own family are accentuated more by juxtaposing her against the sister paired with their father, as it’s the father who approves or disapproves of the behaviors of his two daughters. Presumably it might bother Anne’s character more to see her sister with a proud father during the ceremony than it would to see her with the groom. That is, Anne’s character’s alienation is tied into basic familial approval as opposed to the more simplistic trope we see in films related to snagging a husband.

  • Markj74

    That’s Anne Hathaway on the cover? I thought it was Michael Jackson.

  • whoameansyes

    that’s a really good observation that i hadn’t heard anyone mention before. surely they were afraid of playing up the miscegenation angle. but what’s odd is that it’s not like Tunde is some unknown generic black guy – he’s the lead singer in the band that most of the major music outlets deemed their band of the year in 2008. you’d think they’d WANT to play him up on the cover in some way.

  • MindlessObamaton

    A complete waste of time this film is. Heard so much about it and when I finally saw it a few weeks ago I felt so embarassed for Demme. Really shocked he even made it, Typical Hollywood liberal BS. I knew early on it wasn’t good but when the groom sang Neil Young’s “Unknown Legend (Christ, talk about one of the worst musical choices in history. Buddy, can you pick a more imperfect choice? Neil’s song is about watching some ordinary woman living a normal life, not some POA like Dewitt!!),” I knew it was truly awful. The only good scene was Hathaway’s “confssional” scene at her NA meeting. Truly awful film.

  • K. Bowen

    One might say that it’s the work of people who never knew what to do with the film — including its lousy release schedule that never took advantage of Anne Hathaway’s everpresence in October and its lousy trailer that suggested it was a wedding comedy. I don’t think you ever see Adebimpe in the trailer, either. It’s great to see such marketing expertise in action.

  • K. Bowen

    Really, the poster doesn’t tell you anything that you couldn’t tell from the title and the cast, ie it’s set at a wedding and Anne Hathaway is in it.

    It’s not exactly the No Country for Old Men There Are No Clean Getaways poster.

  • actionman

    Race wasn’t an issue in the film because the characters were progressive and open-minded enough not to give a rat’s ass about the color of anyone’s skin.

    I thought it was refreshing that we didn’t have an obligatory “racial” scene in the film, and that the racial differences between the bride and groom didn’t create some cliched, contrived rift between any of the characters.

    Who fucking cares about this? I know I don’t.

    Rachel Getting Married was one of 2009’s BEST films. I hope more people discover it, and fall in love with it the way I did, on DVD.

  • markj

    That’s Anne Hathaway on the cover? I thought it was Michael Jackson.

  • corey3rd

    nobody needs this film to devolve into Tyler Perry’s Rachel Getting Married, but hiding the Groom’s racial identity is like a joke on the Colbert Report.

  • Sabina E

    what the HELL??? You are right, Wells, it’s so obvious they don’t want people to notice that a white woman is marrying a black guy. This is 2009, I can’t believe that Sony is afraid of offending a few racist folks.

    wow.

  • Sabina E

    AND I thought “WAIT, WHERE’S THE BLACK GROOM?” when I first saw that photo of the white man next to Rachel.

  • actionman

    i think that this is being blown WAY out of proportion

  • EDouglasCS

    It’s definitely being blown out of proportion.. Rachel is GETTING married, so having her being given away by Bill Irwin makes perfect sense… and the whole interracial thing isn’t even a factor in the movie so why should it be played up on the cover. They really should put something on the cover making it obvious that this was probably one of the most overrated movies of 2008 and not to expect much beyond a decent performance from Hathaway and a lot of corny wedding speeches.

  • actionman

    Overrated my ace, EdouglasCS. That film has at least five heartbreaking moments, and the performances from Hathaway, DeWitt, and Irwin were all award-worthy. Corny wedding speeches? Whaaaat?

    The dishwasher scene — alone — makes the film one of the best from 2008.

  • Sabina E

    yeah, maybe this is getting blown out of proportion, but still, why is Sony trying to hide up the fact that Rachel’s marrying a black man? We have a black/mixed president in office!

    *sigh*

  • BobMorton

    anyone notice how the sony earbud headphones on the nick and norah video poster/dvd case are flipped and clearly look like they say “anus”?

    just sayin….

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/images/B001MM3AZM/sr=1-1/qid=1235755464/ref=dp_image_z_0?ie=UTF8&n=130&s=dvd&qid=1235755464&sr=1-1

  • /3rtfu11

    Typical Hollywood liberal BS

    Demme is a typical Hollywood liberal fulll of BS you strongly dislike.

  • Monument

    I haven’t seen the movie, I don’t know who the characters are, but that image looks exactly like a bride and groom. If it were less blurry and the man looked old enough to be a father of the bride I might buy it, but that image looks exactly like a couple that just got married.

    The audience for this movie is already small, it is not outside the bounds of reason to assume that the marketing department would try to hide an aspect of the film that might cause them to lose even more viewers.

  • Randy W

    I don’t really see what the big deal is. Irwin is probably the third most important character in the movie so it makes sense to have him on the poster.

    Also what does it matter anyway? It’s not like some racist redneck bubbas from kentucky would be trying to decide between Rachel Getting Married and the latest Larry the Cable Guy movie, only to be turned off by a mixed race couple in the poster.

  • Monument

    The racist redneck tag is an easy way for people to ignore the fact racism is not just a southern problem. I live in California, bluer than blue state, right between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles and I hear the N-bomb dropped on a regular basis. Yes, Barack Obama is our president, but he was elected by roughly half of the 57% percent of the population that actually voted. As Tracy Morgan said, “We are a racist country, the end.”

  • DeafBrownTrashPunk

    what the HELL??? You are right, Wells, it’s so obvious they don’t want people to notice that a white woman is marrying a black guy. This is 2009, I can’t believe that Sony is afraid of offending a few racist folks.

    wow.

  • DeafBrownTrashPunk

    AND I thought “WAIT, WHERE’S THE BLACK GROOM?” when I first saw that photo of the white man next to Rachel.

  • http://www.myfilmvault.com adaml

    Thought the fimm quite indulgent. Was there a single scene in the entire picture that didn’t go on far too long?

  • DeafBrownTrashPunk

    yeah, maybe this is getting blown out of proportion, but still, why is Sony trying to hide up the fact that Rachel’s marrying a black man? We have a black/mixed president in office!

    *sigh*

  • actionman

    no, adaml. it was a perfectly calibrated two hours.

  • Dan Revill

    Interesting point Wells, but I sorta do agree that in the end unless someone knows about the movie (via friend recommendation or review) that most people standing in the DVD rental store are probably gonna go for something else over this. I never even noticed either. The poster is boring. I think they could have done something more artistic in keeping with the vibe of the film…oh well.

    That being said, I’ve just put in my pre-order for it. March 10th is a good day for Blu-ray. Also purchasing Let the Right One In, Milk, Synecdoche NY and Pinnochio. Ah i’m broke now. Oh well. :D

  • Nate West

    The boquet of flowers in her hands and the position of the male figure are telltale details which, together,indicate that Rachel is being escorted by her father–i.e., Rachel IS GETTING married. If, in the next instance, the white figure is now to the bride’s left and the flowers are missing, then Rachel has married her father.

  • Aladdin Sane

    Interesting point Wells, but I sorta do agree that in the end unless someone knows about the movie (via friend recommendation or review) that most people standing in the DVD rental store are probably gonna go for something else over this. I never even noticed either. The poster is boring. I think they could have done something more artistic in keeping with the vibe of the film…oh well.
    That being said, I’ve just put in my pre-order for it. March 10th is a good day for Blu-ray. Also purchasing Let the Right One In, Milk, Synecdoche NY and Pinnochio. Ah i’m broke now. Oh well. :D

  • http://www.itsamadmadblog2.blogspot.com JosephB

    The single best film in ’08 for me. Demme (and Hathaway, and Irwin and DeWitt etc.) knocked this one outta the park. A great throwback to the leisurely, rambling, and ultimately perfect character study mastered by Cassavetes decades ago.