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.
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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
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.
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