Rachel, Rachel (1968) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
39 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
A gentle, rich1y emotional, melancholy but, amazingly, never depressing experience…
Nazi_Fighter_David18 January 2009
In a variation on her "Long Hot Summer" role, Woodward plays a sexually repressed schoolteacher in a small New England town who realizes that life is passing her by… She is thirty-five, a virgin, and dominated by her mother… During the summer, she has an affair with an old schoolmate… It proves disappointing, but she now knows that she can be loving, and determines to leave town and do something about her life—a move that seems only tentatively hopeful…

Woodward gives her finest performance as the confused, frequently beaten but ultimately indestructible woman… She has an extraordinary ability to look natural or simple and still reveal an inner radiance…

There are many touching moments: her timidness at the religious meeting; her awkward experiences with men; her late-night discussion with a likable male friend; and, most unforgettable, her face causing change from joyous expectancy to merely suppressed hysteria to a painful outburst of tears when she discovers that, contrary to her hopes, she is not pregnant...

Newman shows a natural cinematic sense in his perceptive depictions of small town life, the frenzied activity of a revival meeting and the anxieties of a first sexual experience; and in his clever, rarely impressive juxtaposition of Rachel's present with her fantasies and childhood memories… He gets excellent performances from Estelle Parsons as another lonely teacher and James Olson as the cynical big-city man who lets Rachel down…

Both Newman and Woodward won Golden Globe Awards… Woodward won the coveted New York Film Critics' Award, and was nominated for an Oscar…
24 out of 25 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Newman's Own
dglink21 February 2009
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.
35 out of 38 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A Few Life Altering Decisions
bkoganbing14 February 2011
For Paul Newman's directorial debut, a property was chosen that was a real star vehicle for his spouse Joanne Woodward. In a distinctly unglamorous part, Rachel Rachel is about a 30 something spinster schoolteacher who lives with her perpetually sick mother and yearns to have something more out of life. She's inexperienced in a whole lot of different ways.

The script written by Stewart Stern which did receive an Oscar nomination uses the technique of Eugene O'Neill perfected on stage and screen in Strange Interlude. It's confined in this star vehicle to the lead character of Woodward. We get to hear her inner thoughts and see them acted out in her drab existence.

Looming in front of her consciousness is her unseen sister who did leave the nest and got married and started a family of her own. Mother Kate Harrington always uses that example to berate Woodward. At the same time Woodward must not entertain thoughts of leaving mother. The two live above a funeral parlor that was once her father Donald Moffat's business, but now has been taken over by Frank Corsaro who lets them stay on the premises. Not exactly an atmosphere to encourage romance of any kind.

After a night on the town with James Olson who quite frankly was just looking to make an easy score on a sex starved spinster, Woodward has to make a few life altering decisions.

Rachel Rachel got 3 other Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress for Joanne Woodward and Best Supporting Actress for Estelle Parsons. Parsons has an interesting role herself as fellow teacher and confidante to Woodward. She's got herself wrapped in some fundamentalist church which serves as her vehicle for a social life. But that is far from Woodward's scene.

Purportedly Woodward was miffed that husband Newman got no nomination for Best Director. But I think the one who really should have been miffed is Kate Harrington. A veteran of a couple TV soap operas this was clearly her big screen career role. And she's really the only one who matches Woodward in any scene they're in. She definitely should have gotten some Academy recognition.

Rachel Rachel is a fine character study and a great vehicle for Joanne Woodward. And having it filmed in and around Paul and Joanne's Connecticut home must have been a blessing for both of them.
13 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
I'm middle-aged. What should I do for the rest of my life?
GMJames31 May 2001
Based on the novel "A Jest of God" by Canadian novelist Margaret Laurence, "Rachel, Rachel" is the story of Rachel Cameron (beautifully played by Joanne Woodward), a middle-aged schoolteacher who tries to come out of her shell before it's too late. Her father, recently deceased, was the town's funeral director. She still lives at home with her demanding mother (Kate Harrington). Rachel's friend is Calla Mackie (Estelle Parsons), an equally lonely, repressed fellow teacher who has some issues in her life as well. Rachel has a chance on love when a man (James Olson) returns to the small town in Connecticut from NYC. Rachel has some difficulty handling emotions she's never felt before. She's still haunted by her past and has difficulty coping with reality and fantasy. As Rachel mentioned at the beginning of the film, she's middle-aged, she's lived half of her life, what can she do now?

This was Paul Newman's debut as director. He did a fine job directing his wife Joanne Woodward. He captured the loneliness of this woman without overdoing it as well as the atmosphere of living in a small town that is alternately comfortable and suffocating.

I was also impressed with the supporting cast. Including Estelle Parsons, Kate Harrington and James Olson, Donald Moffat as Rachel's very scary father and two very charismatic performances by Geraldine Fitzgerald as the local reverend and Terry Kiser as a traveling faith healer.

Although it received four Oscar nominations, "Rachel, Rachel" seems to have fallen off the radar screen. Some of the movies that were released in 1968 included "The Lion in Winter", "Funny Girl", "2001: A Space Odyssey", "Romeo and Juliet" and "Planet of the Apes".

"Rachel, Rachel", a mature, well-acted drama, certainly should be considered one of the more under-appreciated films of the late 1960s.
52 out of 66 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Too Beautiful
Bolesroor12 May 2004
I saw "Rachel, Rachel" early one summer morning on cable. I woke up in the dark and turned the television on and the film began. I was hypnotized. The movie is so honest, and moving, and true that I thought I was still dreaming.

I grew up in Connecticut, and several of my aunts were schoolteachers, so I can tell you that every moment in the film is absolutely true. Paul Newman gets everything right... the repressed woman who is still under her mother's control, the judgmental small-town, the wild children, even the sound of the heat bugs on the country road! Joanne Woodward is absolutely mesmerizing as a woman lost in the shuffle, doing everything everyone wants her to and dying in the process...

This movie is not for everyone. There are no explosions or car crashes or digitally-animated comic book characters. But if you would like to see a genuine "slice-of-life" along the lines of "Midnight Cowboy" or even "The Graduate," then "Rachel, Rachel" is a film that will move you and make you think. Definitely worth seeking out.

Grade: A-
54 out of 69 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
One of the best American films of the 60's.
brefane13 December 2004
This small, naturalistic film is one of the more honest films to come out of Hollywood. Its portrait of unexceptional lives strikes chords most movies never hear. Woodward and Harrington are superb, and under husband Paul Newman's direction, Woodward gives what is probably her finest performance. Newman has done a first rate job, and his use of photographed thought is particularly effective thanks in large part to Dede Allen's superb editing. The scene at the revival is ,perhaps, overdone but, the rest of the film feels true to life. The film's integrity is in its refusal to romanticize or provide dramatic climaxes. There are no heroes or villains, nothing remarkable happens, yet the film is holding and affecting and it should have been on the AFI's list of The 100 Greatest American Films. It deservedly received Oscar nods for best picture and actress, but director Newman was not nominated. Both the New York Film Critics and the Hollywood Foreign Press (Golden Globes) awarded Newman and Woodward. A gem!
37 out of 46 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A Wonderful Ode To Loneliness
ferbs549 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
During the course of their 50-year marriage (1958-2008), Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward appeared in 10 films together, and in 1968, Newman directed the first film of his career, "Rachel, Rachel." Although he would go on to produce and/or direct 11 more, only five of those dozen featured his wife in front of the camera: "Rachel, Rachel," "They Might Be Giants," "The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds" (a film that, like "Rachel, Rachel," featured the Newmans' cute little daughter, Nell Potts), "The Shadow Box" (a TV movie) and "The Glass Menagerie." Their initial pairing as director/star shows what formidable talents the couple wielded both behind and in front of the camera. In "Rachel, Rachel," we meet a shy, 35-year-old schoolteacher, Rachel Cameron. Rachel is only really half alive when we first encounter her at the beginning of her latest summer break. Still a virgin, Rachel spends most of her time caring for her nagging, widowed mother. We are told that she only eats vanilla ice cream, and the fact of her semiexistence is driven home by the fact that she lives above a funeral parlor, of all places! The film allows us into her inner thought processes, and we realize that she has suicidal fantasies that she herself characterizes as "morbid." She feels that she is at the exact middle of her life, and that this is her last "ascending summer." During the course of the film, we see that a revival meeting at a church cannot get Rachel "reborn," and are happy when the lonely woman enters into her first sexual relationship, with an old acquaintance visiting from out of town. Predictably, though, long-term happiness is a tenuous proposition at best....

"Rachel, Rachel" is a wonderfully realistic, mature and adult film. Newman's direction is sensitive and assured, especially for a beginner, and the supporting players (most particularly James Olson as Nick, the new man in Rachel's life, and Oscar-nominated Estelle Parsons as Rachel's lesbian gal pal, Calla) are all very fine. But it is Joanne Woodward who most certainly holds the film together. She is simply superb here, as the attractive but diffident Rachel. Hers is a wonderfully well-modulated performance, making for a completely well-rounded character. Rachel is depressed and lonely, yes, but also capable of a certain steeliness and very real humor. And those interior monologues and fantasies previously mentioned help us to really understand the poor woman, and what makes her tick. Woodward most certainly did deserve her Oscar nomination for her work in this film, but just could not prevail at the awards ceremony against Katharine Hepburn and the force of Nature known as Barbra Streisand. The actress makes us feel the heartbreak of Rachel's situation over and over. Among the most heartbreaking moments: Rachel walks into her bedroom, after assisting at her mother's weekly bridge game, and spontaneously starts to sob; Rachel compulsively admits her love to her new boyfriend, and her desire for a child, while Nick looks on in discomfort; Rachel gets the news about her "pregnancy" at the hospital; and, most especially, Rachel sits on a bus, at the film's end, en route to a new life in a new town, and ponders the fact that she might always be frightened and lonely. Rachel is a wonderful woman who would most likely make most guys happy, and the viewer is left with optimistic hopes for her. (Too bad a sequel for this film was never made!) In a picture filled with so much sadness, at least Newman & Co. leave us with an uplifting finale of sorts. Only...I would feel a lot more sanguine about Rachel's future if she'd just left her darn mother behind....
7 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An underrated classic; Joanne Woodward gives brilliant performance
h_hirsto30 April 2003
This film is one my all time favorites. It's a strong story about a school teacher who lives with her cranky, dominating mother and who hasn't had (or used!) the chance to take responsibility for her own life. Rachel is a woman of many fears; fears that may seem insignificant and vain from an outsiders point of view but that are everything to her, that actually define the framework for her life. In a little town of conservative values it is hard to take a turn and find the courage to become something you weren't before. Joanne Woodward gives a masterful performance and is the heart and soul of this film. She does the most incredible things with just her eyes and her face, and her voice. She makes Rachel so real it hurts to watch. That's acting. Estelle Parsons as Calla is fantastic, too. This is a beautiful, sensitive movie, highly underrated and way too unknown to most people. For me, it's a classic. Go find it and see it!
32 out of 41 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Woman, Interrupted...
icblue0229 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
When one has not really lived, life is actually a sort of slow death.

That is a pretty morbid thought, but it is the painful conclusion that Rachel (Joanne Woodward) comes to in the beginning of this film; her life isn't really a life, but a slow, lonely march to the grave. Accompanying Rachel on her "march" is a domineering mother, a best friend with deeper desires, and a man who, while fulfilling her (and his)physical urges, does nothing to edify her in the emotional sense. To top it all off, she desperately wants a child and is a schoolteacher, devoting much of her time to nurturing other peoples' children. To put it mildly, the outlook for Rachel seems rather bleak at the onset.

Yet in the course of the film, Woodward is able to, very simply and very delicately, convey a great awakening within Rachel. Rachel becomes aware of the fact that there is a great deal in life for her to see and experience. In the end, for the first time in her life, she makes a decision for herself, and sets about to potentially change the course of her life -- to make that journey toward the grave a little more meaningful.

Joanne Woodward is perfect in this film; there are no missteps in her work, and she is able to convey so much without ever overdoing it. This film is driven totally by the heart and the emotion of the characters, and Woodward conveys the internal side of a character better than almost anyone else. She truthfully taps into the basic human need to love and be loved, which is certainly no small task.

As viewers, we are left to wonder what is to come for Rachel, which definitely lends a deeper element of reality to the film. We are not sure if life will play out happily for Rachel, but we are not wholly convinced that she will be miserable, either; her future is uncertain. Then again, isn't the same true for all of us, to one degree or another?
26 out of 34 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Anne_Hudson24 May 2003
This movie is a gem. Joanne Woodward's acting has subtlety and insight. The story of a woman fearful of life and change is told with great truthfulness and sensitivity. The ending succeeded in being hopeful without surrendering to sentimentality or cliche, and I was deeply moved.
25 out of 36 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Even Wallflowers Can Grow
slokes2 April 2012
Warning: Spoilers
A film that draws its greatest power from its most subtle, fragile moments, "Rachel, Rachel" is a sweet coming-of-age drama where the subject is a woman neither in her teens or early twenties, but of an age where she has begun giving up on anything special ever happening to her.

Joanne Woodward embodies the title role with disarming ease, a frumpy small-town teacher who lives with her mother above a funeral parlor. Rachel's life consists largely on flashing back on her childhood and her relationship with her dead father. As summer sets in, new opportunities to experience life emerge in Rachel's life, just as she develops an appetite for change.

"Nothing is real," she says, echoing John Lennon from about this same time. "Nothing is now."

The film can be divided in two parts. The first part establishes Rachel and her surroundings in a quiet, almost eventless way. The director, Paul Newman, obviously knew actors, especially Woodward, and gives his cast ample space to find their voices. Woodward and Estelle Parsons as Rachel's teacher friend Calla were both nominated for Oscars, and Woodward and Newman both won Golden Globes, but the standout for me is Kate Harrington as Rachel's needling, passive-aggressive mother.

"I'm not criticizing, dear," she tells Rachel gleefully after discovering her daughter forgot to bring her the candy bar she asked for. "We all forget sometimes. Anyhow I got it myself. I took a nice long walk in the heat." She emphasizes that final consonant wonderfully.

The second part revolves around Nick, the guy with the key to releasing the woman inside the overgrown girl Rachel has become. James Olson gets all he can out of playing Nick, smug, coy, self-loathing. He's a fellow teacher home from the big city who Rachel knew as a boy, not all bad but prone to saying even complimentary things in a caustic way. "How polite and well brought-up you are," he tells Rachel in one of many uncomfortable moments Olson delivers well.

Terry Kiser, best known today as the title walking-dead guy from the "Weekend At Bernie's" series, shines as a charismatic preacher, while Donald Moffat plays Rachel's father in a series of enigmatic, effective flashbacks with Woodward and Newman's real-life daughter Nell Potts as Rachel. It's a real family affair; Newman himself can be heard if not seen as a character in a scary movie Rachel and Nick go see.

On the whole, this is a solid and worthwhile film, very much a product of its times yet ahead of them, too. The surreal peeks we get of Rachel's active imagination point toward the less-tethered but more scattershot mind-flipping of films to come like "Midnight Cowboy" and "Catch-22."

Newman also gets a lot of value from the more rural enclaves of Fairfield County, Connecticut, looking very beautiful but a bit oppressive. A visit to the cemetery reveals Rachel has her own grave laid out already, with a tombstone bearing both her and her mother's name!

There are things that seem under-realized. Kiser's church service is an overacted mash which feels like a shrill send-up rather than the transforming experience presented in Margaret Laurence's source novel, "A Jest Of God." Also left without resolution are some early bits of business involving the principal at Rachel's school and a little boy Rachel dreams of adopting. By the way, the boy wears a holster with toy guns to class. This really was shot 45 years ago!

Today, "Rachel, Rachel" is best known as a tour de force for Woodward, as it should be. She commands our attention even as her character seems desperate to escape our notice. Can Rachel survive in the big, bad world? You may not know for certain in the end, but Woodward, with Newman's able support, makes sure you care.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
...how we carry it all with us...
mandala-42 June 2006
This is only the third time I've seen this film (2006), having first seen it when it came out in 1968 and again in 1975. At each of those times the movie reflected stages of transition in my own life, and that is what makes it so riveting, scarily so, even today almost 40 years after I first saw it.

This movie, like Midnight Cowboy and others, effectively demonstrates how small-town repression and childhood experiences invariably seep into our adult lives and influence them in ways not always recognizable or to our benefit. Here is a repressed girl in a repressive small town (often New England is a symbol of suffocating, inbred, isolated, deep-level collective cultural phantoms.) doing her best to essentially stay that way, despite the well-intentioned but misdirected efforts of Calla (did Estelle Parsons play the cantankerous sister in "I Never Sang for my Father"?). That church scene would make me feel downright creepy in I were conned into attending it. The flashbacks to childhood, especially the dying boy and her own experience in the basket in the mortuary prep room, are chillingly effective in conveying the grip her youth's experiences still have on her.

As for the picture the man shows Woodward, I thought it was his dead twin brother, or it could have been his son. But the phone call she later made indicated he had no family, so it's anyone's guess as who's picture it is. I still think it's the brother. And that may bring Rachel dangerously close to the hold that her childhood could still have on her.

Finally, Rachel's decision to go to Oregon (a symbol of liberation from past miasmas, a "coming into one's own light a la the free-standing Kouros, a Jungian "individuation") makes this film very satisfying to watch. We're still left wondering--how much of her baggage does she take with her? But I left thinking that she was free enough to decide that consciously and independently.
19 out of 28 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Score one for Oregon!
lee_eisenberg28 July 2007
In pretty much every movie where I've seen Joanne Woodward, she does a great role, and "Rachel, Rachel" (directed by her husband Paul Newman) is no exception. Woodward plays Rachel Cameron, a schoolteacher in a conservative, repressive small town. Various incidents from her childhood have long haunted her, and she still lives with - and has to take care of - her needy mother. Without a doubt she's unfulfilled in life, but she basically has no way to escape this existence. But things just might change when childhood friend Nick (James Olson) returns to town after spending many years in the big city.

By barely moving her face, Woodward conveys many emotions in this movie: anguish, cynicism, hope, and more. I would suspect that "Rachel, Rachel" probably played into the burgeoning feminist movement, but moreover it showed the complete break from "traditional" American mores (after all, what characterized the '60s more than that?). Nineteen sixty-eight was certainly a great year for movies: along with this one, there was "Planet of the Apes", "Romeo & Juliet", "2001", "The Odd Couple", "Bullitt", "Charly" and "Yellow Submarine". Definitely one that I recommend.

Also starring Geraldine Fitzgerald.
11 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Conservative Rachel and libertine Rachel
Wuchakk24 June 2014
Joanne Woodward effectively plays a bored and boring middle-aged school teacher who still lives with her mother at a funeral home in Connecticut. She's on the verge of mental collapse, but hides it well and pretends everything's okay. A guy from her childhood comes to town from the big city (James Olson) and her appetite for change comes to the fore.

This potent drama was Paul Newman's first stab at directing and it's the best cinematic depiction of the inward struggle of flesh and spirit -- id and superego -- I've ever seen. This struggle explains why it's called "Rachel, Rachel." Rachel is experiencing the undercurrent conflict between spiritual and carnal impulses. She's stuck between goody-goody Rachel and libertine Rachel and is therefore in living limbo. Various outside factors encourage this lifeless state: Disturbing childhood memories of living in a funeral home, a mother who essentially views Rachel as her personal servant and a genuine friend who's love is starting to become unhealthy (Estelle Parsons).

The film features a mind-blowing pentecostal church sequence that lasts 10-12 minutes. I can't believe Newman had the cojones to include this scene and it's pulled off expertly with Terry Kiser as the guest preacher who "speaks in tongues," which is what Calla (Parsons) tells Rachel when it's reveal that he's the speaker. Parsons is fabulous here, by the way.

Due to the subject matter and the fact that this is a drama there are some boring stretches, so you have to be in the mood for a serious drama. Nevertheless, the film deserves credit for having the gonads to show real life and refusing to be politically correct -- an amazing drama.

In case you didn't know, Newman and Woodward were husband & wife for 50 years, up to his death in 2008.

The film runs 101 minutes and was shot in Connecticut.

3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Lessons In Life
writers_reign1 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I'm very pleased that the several reviews posted here are all positive. This is a fine film, a fine directorial review from an equally fine actor, an outstanding acting performance from his wife and great support from the entire cast. This is definitely art house material but none the worse for that. Director Newman reveals a wonderful sensitivity matched by his eye for pictorial images, the small New England town is captured to perfection yet is light years away from Peyton Place and the theme of time passing is conveyed subtly in scenes of pastoral/agricultural life following the seasons. It's difficult not to praise it too highly.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Not just a chick flick
kevintinsley1 May 2008
I was surprised to find this movie on HBO Signature channel early this morning, and just as surprised to love it, and to never before have heard of it. With this being Paul Newman's directorial debut, and starring Joanne Woodward, you would think it would be better known than it is. This is a wonderfully moving illustration of small town life before the onset of the modern world, with all of the good and bad that went along with it. It reminded me of growing up in a small town with all of the petty gossip as well as all of the wonderful friendships. Rachel is repressed in many ways by her past relationship with her late father as well as dealing with her not-so-invalid mother, who she serves as a sort of girl Friday. When she finally gets a chance to come out of her shell, she passes it up once before finally reaching out to find all she has missed in her life. Joanne Woodward gives one of the finest performances of her career, with her understated beauty contrasting so much with the intense repression of her character. All in all, this is one movie that deserves far more acclaim than it has received as a study of that small town life we all have left behind, and all that we have learned since.
7 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Tough little drama with jagged bits of fantasy and delusion...
moonspinner5519 October 2006
Paul Newman directed his wife Joanne Woodward in this adaptation of Margaret Laurence's book "A Jest of God", and does a pretty good job envisioning the plight of a small town spinster schoolteacher who is aching to break free from a life with no prospects. Newman's inherent good taste (the pastoral town, the neighborly feel) works against the need to show this woman's personal suffocation, and though we can see that romance might bring her happiness, the film is unsatisfactory in tying up this loose end in Rachel's life. Some keenly-shot flights-of-fancy are well-realized by Newman and his editor, although several sequences (such as a church meeting and Woodward's roll in the blankets with James Olson) are allowed to run on too long. Woodward is excellent, as is Estelle Parsons in a memorable turn as Rachel's friend (who is suffering herself, for far different reasons). **1/2 from ****
14 out of 24 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Frustration and Joanne Woodward ***1/2 Rachel, Rachel
edwagreen9 May 2006
Katharine Hepburn and Barbra Streisand tied for the best actress Oscar in 1968. Let's remember that Patricia Neal and Joanne Woodward were also in the running. The central theme of this film parallels the great radio soap opera-Helen Trent-Can a woman of 35 find happiness? Miss Woodward is again totally frustrated. She seemed to make a career out of it. Here, she is a sexually repressed schoolteacher who finds romance one summer. Sounds a little like Hepburn's "Summertime" of years back. However, Woodward pulls out all the stops in conveying a repressed woman, on the road to a grim spinsterhood, in the tradition of Olivia DeHavilland's "The Heiress."

Paul Newman is great in his directing debut.

Estelle Parsons, having won the supporting actress award the year before for "Bonnie and Clyde," was nominated again in this category as another frustrated teacher. Calla is also in the depths of depression as she can no longer suppress her lesbian tendencies. As the 2nd grade teacher needing a summer fling, James Olson is quite impressive here. Am surprised that Newman himself didn't take the part. In some ways the Olson part reminded me a little bit of Newman's "Hud." Remember that Pat Neal didn't take him seriously there. Equally impressive is Kate Harrington as Rachel's mother. Afraid to be alone, but yet having the ability to wreak havoc in Rachel's life, Harrington should have joined Parsons in the supporting actress Oscar category. She manages to convey an almost dependent assertive style which is quite hard to do by any standards.

The film has special meaning for me. Bernard Barrow briefly appears as the principal of the school where Woodward teaches. I had Bernard Barrow for an introductory speech course at Brooklyn College in the 1960s. He was talented and would go on to win an emmy for a day-time soap opera.

I got an A in the course but I rate this film a strong B. Frustrated love has always been a sore spot in films. This flick is no exception.
12 out of 20 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
I love this film
supost116 November 2004
I recently saw this film again, and it reminded me of how much I love it. It is visually beautiful, and Joanne Woodward's performance as Rachel is wonderful. You can feel the entire scope of emotions that follow her throughout the film. It should be added that James Olson's performance as Nick, as well as Estelle Parsons' performance as Rachel's friend Calla are excellent as well. The movie ends with a feeling of hope for Rachel, hope that she can find her happiness. This film clearly shows the strong and loving relationship between Joanne Woodward and the film's director and her husband, Paul Newman. I highly recommend this film. **** out of ****.
11 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Much in little
three-m26 January 2013
It's amazing to me how far and how fast we've fallen in the realm of cinema. I caught this movie midway and was gripped by the intense emotion Joanne Woodward conveys with her distraught portrayal of an emotionally inexperienced "middle-aged" woman (35 years old and middle-aged!). Naturally, the acting was so compelling that I found the film and watched it through.

The direction is wonderfully simplistic and the portrayals deep and rich with emotion and confusion. There's not a film that's been made in the past 25 years, perhaps with the exception of The Apostle, that captures the emotion of a common person with such depth.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A great performance by Joanne Woodward that is very real.
mark.waltz18 March 2010
Warning: Spoilers
What some people might call a TV like movie, "Rachel, Rachel" was made before TV movies were becoming the place for slice-of-life dramas and character studies of troubled people. But when you've got Paul Newman as director, and his real-life wife Joanne Woodward playing a small town New England school teacher who is facing her problems of loneliness, that's made for the big screen, and "Rachel, Rachel" was one of 1968's most anticipated dramas. From the beginning, Rachel is not a conventional movie heroine. She is attractive, if not beautiful, and has a prim, if not frumpy, look to her. She also fantasizes quite a bit. Walking down the street on her way to school, she fears her slip is showing and that everyone is staring at her. She tells a boy that the principal is waiting to speak to her, then fantasizes about asking him to come home with her. She fantasizes about her lover (James Olson), and has flashbacks to her childhood with her undertaker father (Donald Moffat). Her now aging mother (Kate Harrington, in a beautiful performance) dominates her without being nasty, but it is obvious that she would like to escape from her.

It is obvious that Rachel is an insecure lady who doesn't feel right in her place on earth, and when she decides to have an affair with Olson without marriage, she feels insecure as a lover and hopes she'll do better the next time. It says a lot about her feelings of despair when she is confronted by her mother, or a schoolteacher friend (the always excellent Estelle Parsons) who has more than feelings of friendship for her. Fresh off her performance as Blanche in "Bonnie and Clyde", Parsons is less shrill and more down to earth, yet equally troubled. The scene in the Evangelist church with Geraldine Fitzgerald (looking beautiful in her brief time on screen) and Terry Kiser (as the preacher) is excellent. There are few moments of 60's sub-realism, mainly in Woodward's fantasies, which are downplayed compared to most late 60's films that almost seemed acid laced in their photography and editing.

1968 was a tough year for the Best Actress category at the Oscars; Woodward was nominated against Barbra Streisand, Katharine Hepburn, Vanessa Redgrave, and Patricia Neal, who all gave exciting performances. It's one of those few years where each of the actresses was equal and one wishes that each of them could take home the award. This is a dignified drama of self-awakening that doesn't always happen when one is young; Sometimes it happens again and again as we shed old temptations or habits, toss aside friends who stifle us, or move to a new community to get a new grip on where life is taking us.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Slender Material Made Good by the Performances.
chconnol11 April 2005
"Rachel, Rachel" received a lot of praise and recognition upon it's release in 1968. This was primarily due to the then powerhouse couple "du-jour", Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. He directed, she starred in this character study of a 35 year old second grade school teacher (Woodward) who realizes at the beginning of the summer season that she's middle aged and, in her words, it's all downhill into the grave from here.

We've seen this kind of character study before, most notably in David Lean's splendid "Summertime" with Katherine Hepburn. Like Woodward's character here in "Rachel, Rachel", Hepburns character was middle aged (more far along that Woodward's character is to boot), a school teacher and a spinster (read: virgin) looking, maybe, JUST maybe to find love at last. The two heroines do find love in men who are amorous and good looking but alas, not available. But while Hepburn's affair was pure romance and the mood was one of sheer beauty and joy, Woodward's character experiences it as yet another painful event in a life spent too cautiously. Her Rachel is controlled and allows herself to be controlled by others, especially her shrill, domineering and demanding Mother.

What most likely made "Rachel, Rachel" seem extraordinary back in 1968 was the "frank" and "adult" themes and the composition of some of the shots. For example, the film has a full on lesbian kissing scene. It's a nicely done bit of business that must've seen way out in the late 60's when progressive film making was just making inroads in American film making. In addition, the film has what for the times must've been fairly explicit sex scenes between Woodward and James Olsen. Nothing beyond a bare back is shown but the raciness must've seemed very daring. By today's standards, "Rachel, Rachel" would barely warrant a very tepid PG-13 rating.

One gets the feeling after watching "Rachel, Rachel" that the creators felt that the character of Rachel was compelling in and of itself. It's not. The fact that she's inhabited by Ms. Woodward does make the character a lot more interesting and believable than the material warrants. Woodward is superb here. You immediately understand her character and she gets our sympathies with little or no effort. The problem is that she's such a pleasant and pretty woman that it's difficult to understand why she's so lonely or has allowed herself to withdraw so completely.

As for the rest of the small cast, Estelle Parsons plays her only friend and fellow school teacher who might be hiding more than she's letting on. She's fine but in that peculiar and "unique" Parsons way that can be both irritating (as she was at times in "Bonnie & Clyde) and endearing at times as she is here. James Olson is perfectly fine as Nick Kazlik, Rachel's first lover. He's comes across both sexually charged and adventurous. You have no problem believing that Rachel would be held spellbound by his attentions and heartbroken when she learns his true intentions. Her Mother is played by Kate Harrington who is so shrill and one dimensional that you cannot understand why Rachel would put up with her. And there's baffling turn at the very end when Rachel finally confronts the Mother to say she's going to move away to Oregon and she asks the Mother to come along with her. It's a strange and inconsistent development because up until this point, we've been made to feel that it's the Mother who has held Rachel back and it would be best to get AWAY from her.

Donald Moffat plays Rachel's undertaker father, only in flashbacks. These scenes are of little consequence because they tell us next to nothing about how their relationship possibly effected Rachel in any way. They're like extra flourishes that serve no purpose at all.

There are so many elements that are left unexplained and unexamined in "Rachel, Rachel" that despite the nice camera-work and cinematography, the film feels incomplete. Does Rachel have a fascination with death because she lived with it for so long? And if so, how is this effecting her outlook on life? Who was in the photograph that Nick showed her? Was it his son? Why did Estelle Parson's character seek God in the church? Was she feeling guilty about her sexuality? And as mentioned above, why did Rachel choose to take the Mother with her to Oregon? Was it only the small town that held her back? "Rachel, Rachel" is nicely directed by Paul Newman in an unobtrusive style. He doesn't go into any big camera effects. The problems with he film lie in the basic storyline and the sketchy characterizations. It must've seemed very modern, adult and cutting edge upon it's release. But seen nearly 40 years later, it feels very quaint, slender and inconsequential despite the fine performance of Joanne Woodward.
14 out of 27 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The suffocation of the suburbs...
MarieGabrielle22 October 2006
...covered me like a gloved hand"...; Sylvia Plath wrote this in the "Bell Jar" and it aptly portrays Paul Newman's brilliant direction of Joanne Woodward, living out her life in the idyllic American suburbs.

What is addressed is quiet desperation, the rage and powerlessness Rachel feels over her own life. Of particular interest is the plot point of her father, running the local funeral parlor.

We see the revival meeting, run by Geraldine Fitgerald. Estelle Parsons is very good, as Rachel's colleague, a local schoolteacher in the small pastoral town. "What will you do all summer, Rachel?"..., she asks; and Rachel suddenly realizes the long summer stands before her.

Rachel attempts a social life, but it comes up empty. Eventually she ends up leaving the small town; her mother is perplexed as to why she would leave; for Rachel it is a new beginning. Very well told, sensitive character study. *** Anyone who has enjoyed this film may also appreciate "The Bell Jar" (1979) with Marilyn Hassett and Julie Harris.
9 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Marvelous Movie For Actors -- the rot sets in
boblipton29 December 2004
Joanne Woodward gives a marvelous performance -- which, of course, is a done deal. Miss Woodward, I am convinced, is no more capable of giving less than a marvelous performance than I am of flapping my arms and flying to the moon. With a marvelous supporting cast including Estelle Parsons, Geraldine Fitzgerald and Donald Moffat before he had eyebrows, it is a feast for lovers of marvelous performances. They all give marvelous performances. A good deal of credit must, undoubtedly, go to Paul Newman, director, who as a marvelous actor, knows how to give marvelous performances and how to use the camera to highlight those performances.

The problem is that, given those marvelous performances, the story consists of a couple of days in which Miss Woodward's character recognizes that her life stinks. That is to say that you spend approximately one hundred minutes in a section of the story that should take about ten. And then, of course, the story is over. Compare this to, say, THE THREE FACES OF EVE in which Miss Woodward gives three marvelous performances and we learn something, however spurious, about the benefits of psychotherapy, and you will understand what I mean.

Why did they make this movie? Answer: there were no more real studios, and Paul Newman was a star with clout. He wanted to make this movie, so this movie was made in hopes that he would look fondly on Warner Brothers for future deals. Or maybe it was part of a deal: he got to make this movie, then he would appear in some movies that Warner Brothers wanted to make.

Given the level of talent Mr. Newman had to work with, it isn't half bad. But it isn't really that far from this movie to WATERWORLD.
12 out of 27 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
My brief review of the film
sol-27 December 2005
A well fashioned study of loneliness and longing, it melds fantasy and reality well, with interesting narration by Woodward providing an insight into her character's mental state. Woodward does a great job playing her nervous, repressed character, but yet her character had the potential to be explored deeper. There are some loose ends and unexplained relationships, and the flashbacks used benefit the story only a minimal amount whereas they could have helped flesh out the protagonist more. It also lacks excitement and vivaciousness as a film - we are given an insight into a few days in an intriguing character's life, but nothing much more. It comes off as rather slight, for lack of a better word, but it is still fairly good viewing. Paul Newman won a Golden Globe for his directing work here, and he indeed proves that he has talent as a director as well as an actor. Also of interest is how sound levels are worked with in the film, and Estelle Parsons, who gives fine support. It is certainly working checking out.
5 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed