Even if you haven’t read the jacket promo copy, you’ll suspect Passengers is up to some kind of supernatural wish-fulfillment from its first few minutes, as a slumbering Anne Hathaway is awakened on a rainy night by a phone call from a colleague who tells her something terrible has happened requiring her presence at a nearby hospital. It’s not just that Hathaway plays Dr. Claire Summers, a therapist charged with helping a group of plane-crash survivors cope with their near-death experiences and the accompanying trauma—it’s that the chilly, insistently otherworldly production design strongly implies something strange (but comforting, very comforting) is going on, too.
After a recent screening of Rachel Getting Married in Pleasantville, NY, Jonathan Demme confessed that, for several years following his remake of The Manchurian Candidate, he lost interest in fiction films. (During that time, he made the documentaries Neil Young: Heart of Gold and Jimmy Carter Man from Plains.) That helps explain the directorial departure that is Rachel Getting Married, a film with a present-tense title that helps convey the immediacy of its documentary style. Shooting to HD tape rather than 35mm film magazines, Demme and his Man from Plains cinematographer, Declan Quinn, let the camera roll through long takes, staging a momentous family gathering and capturing it in a warm, disarming fly-on-the-wall style.
“Y’know, I’m not queer,” growls Heath Ledger. “Me neither,” murmurs Jake Gyllenhaal, only a little less convincingly.
When he makes the gravelly declaration, Ledger, playing ranch hand Ennis Del Mar, has just clambered out of the tent where he spent a cozy night after roughly shagging his cowboy companion Jack Twist (Gyllenhaal), with whom he’s sharing a sheep-ranching gig — the kind of job you only take for a guaranteed pay-out when prospects elsewhere seem dim. Gyllenhaal’s quiet complacency contrasts with Ledger’s stern declaration. Having satisfied what may be transitory needs, the two of them are operating at emotional cross-purposes — Ennis trying to assert the encounter as a drunken aberration, and Jack balancing that discomfort against his own desires. He seems happy to say whatever’s most likely to keep his new lover close to him the longest.