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Rachel is a 35 year old school teacher who has no man in her life and lives with her mother. When a man from the big city returns and asks her out, she begins to have to make decisions about her life and where she wants it to go. Written by
John Vogel <email@example.com>
Both the camera and the man behind it were obviously in love with the actress on screen, and, that actress, Joanne Woodward, was arguably never better than she was in "Rachel, Rachel," husband-Paul-Newman's first directing effort. The low-key story involves a woman who reaches the middle of her life and realizes that she has yet to start living. Trapped in a small apartment above a funeral parlor with her whining possessive mother, Rachel is a schoolteacher with daydreams of having a life and children of her own.
Rachel's emotions are written on Woodward's face in a way few actresses have ever conveyed feeling. Words are superfluous, because the actress's subtle shifts of expression reveal the woman's raw vulnerability and, eventually, her sexual and emotional awakening. A course in film acting could be taught with this film as the primer. Although Kate Harrington, James Olson, and Estelle Parsons provide able support, the film is Woodward's showcase, and Newman's sturdy direction does not detract from his star. The shifts between Rachel's present and her memories and dreams are seamless, clear, and illuminating rather than distracting.
The film requires patience, but that does not imply boring, but rather leisurely paced, much like life in a small town that lies off the main roads. Getting to know another person requires time, and Rachel is worth knowing. "Rachel, Rachel" is a not to be missed minor masterwork with a performance that will haunt and linger in memory indefinitely. Newman never surpassed his directing here, and few actresses have surpassed Woodward's achievement either.
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