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Paul Newman
Joanne Woodward, James Olson, Kate Harrington
Writing Credits:
Stewart Stern

Rachel is a lonely school teacher who lives with her mother. When a man from the big city asks her out, she starts thinking about where she wants her life to go.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 101 min.
Price: $21.99
Release Date: 9/6/2022

• “A Jest of God” Featurette
• Trailer


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Rachel, Rachel [Blu-Ray] (1968)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 20, 2022)

When I saw Rachel, Rachel on the Blu-ray release schedule, I thought I would finally get to see a young girl's strange, erotic journey from Milan to Minsk. Then I remembered that Seinfeld’s movie was Rochelle, Rochelle. D’oh!

With this 1968 movie, we meet Rachel Cameron (Joanne Woodward), a New England schoolteacher. A single virgin in her mid-30s, she tends to lead a very low-key and “safe” life.

This starts to change when former childhood friend Nick Kazik (James Olson) returns from “the big city”. He expresses romantic interest in Rachel and her life starts to shift.

Rachel acted as the directorial debut of Woodward’s husband, Paul Newman. Obviously more famous as an actor, Newman never really embraced the other side of the camera, so he would only direct five more films over the rest of his life.

I’d love to say that Newman launched this aspect of his career with a bang, but Rachel becomes forgettable at best. Dated and dull, the film lacks a lot to make it appealing.

Without question, the strongest aspect of Rachel comes from Woodward’s lead performance. She takes a pretty flat character and turns in an honest, involving piece of work.

Unfortunately, Rachel as written remains such a blah sadsack that Woodward can only do so much with her. Yes, the film allows Rachel to “blossom” somewhat as the story progresses, but she never becomes anything more than a limp, uninteresting personality.

Newman tries to spice up this monotony with Rachel’s occasional flights of fancy. The film sporadically branches out to show Rachel’s fantasies, and it does so in a manner likely to throw off the viewer, as these pop up in a way that can leave the impression they exist in reality.

Rather than add life and panache to the proceedings, these just feel like an unconvincing distraction. We get less an impression of Rachel’s internal life and more a feeling of filmmaking gimmicks.

Part of the problem stems from the general lack of story here. Rachel delivers a mix of semi-random scenes from its lead character’s life, with sporadic fantasies or flashbacks to her youth.

Though Rachel does “grow” somewhat, the narrative never grabs the viewer. It just feels too loose and without momentum to give the audience much of interest.

It doesn’t help that the agent of Rachel’s “awakening” seems like such a jerk. Of course, women often fall victim to bad men, and someone as desperate for attention as Rachel would seem especially vulnerable.

However, the film doesn’t appear to view Nick as the toxic entity he is. I think we’re intended to see him as Rachel’s semi-liberator.

Instead, Nick just comes across as a horny predator. Perhaps this makes him a more realistic initial sex partner for Rachel than a nicer guy might be, but this still causes problems with the film.

Rachel also seems woefully dated. With its “there’s nothing sadder than a single woman in her 30s” theme and era-specific take on the sexual revolution, the film feels badly stuck in its period.

We find a woman repressed by religion and society who snaps out of it after her sexual awakening. Newman finds nothing creative to do with these themes.

Nor can he develop Rachel as an involving journey in any other ways. The lead role seems so dull and devoid of personality that it becomes difficult to invest in her journey, and this makes the end result slow and less than stimulating.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus D

Rachel, Rachel appears in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though not flawless, the image held up well.

Sharpness was strong. The vast majority of the film looked tight and concise, with only a little softness on display.

I noticed no jagged edges or shimmering, and no edge enhancement occurred. Print flaws caused no problems.

Colors looked good, as they often appeared clear and accurate. The movie didn’t offer a broad palette, as it preferred subdued earthy tones much of the time, but the hues were positive within those parameters.

Black levels also worked well, as they demonstrated depth and richness, and shadow detail looked fine. Overall, this was a fine transfer that did the film justice.

As for the movie’s DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack, it felt more than adequate for a character drama from 1968. Speech seemed fairly natural and firm, with no issues connected to intelligibility or edginess.

Effects lacked much range, but they lacked problems with distortion and seemed acceptably concise. The movie came with occasional snatches of music but not much in that domain.

Still, those elements demonstrated adequate reproduction. Nothing about the audio excelled, but it worked more than adequately for a flick of this one’s age and ambitions.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we get a two-minute, 16-second featurette called A Jest of God - the title of the novel on which the movie was based. Created for potential exhibitors, it offers silent footage from the set.

Some movie shots appear as well. It falls into the “better than nothing” category but the clip’s brevity combined with its lack of audio makes it not especially useful.

As his initial directorial effort, Paul Newman fails to make much of an impact with Rachel, Rachel. The film lacks much real dramatic momentum or depth and becomes a sluggish disappointment. The Blu-ray comes with very good visuals, acceptable audio and minor bonus materials. Newman was a better actor than a director.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 3
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main