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Thirty-five year old spinster and virgin Rachel Cameron is a sad, lonely woman. She lives in the small town of Japonica, Connecticut where she grew up. She teaches second grade at Japonica Elementary School and lives with her highly demanding widowed mother (her funeral director father passed away fourteen years ago) in the same apartment above a funeral home where she grew up, despite the home now not owned by them. Rachel often uses her mother as an excuse not to do things. Rachel represses her emotions, and is prone to daydreaming to envision alternate paths for herself in certain situations if she only had the nerve to do those things. Even when Nick Kazlik, a childhood acquaintance who has returned to Japonica for a summer visit with his family, makes it clear that he wants to have fun with her while he's in town, she can't act on his request out of fear of the unknown. But after a couple of incidents with her only real friend Calla Mackie, who is a fellow teacher at the school, ...Written by
I'm middle-aged. What should I do for the rest of my life?
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.
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