Rachel, Rachel is a low-key melodrama starring Joanne Woodward as a spinster awakening to life. Produced austerely by Paul Newman, who also directs with an uncertain hand, it marks Newman’s feature debut in these non-acting capacities. Offbeat film moves too slowly to an upbeat, ironic climax.
Margaret Laurence’s novel “A Jest of God” has been adapted into an episodic, halting screenplay which not only conveys the tedium of Woodward’s adult life but also, unfortunately, takes its time in so doing.
There is very little dialog – most of which is very good – but this asset makes a liability out of the predominantly visual nature of the development, which in time seems to become redundant, padded and tiring.
James Olson, a childhood friend who has returned for a visit, provides Woodward with an alternative. Believing herself pregnant by Olson, she determines to have the child.
Direction is awkward. Were Woodward not there film could have been a shambles.
1968: Nominations: Best Picture, Actress (Joanne Woodward), Supp. Actress (Estelle Parsons), Adapted Screenplay.