A Review of The Rehearsal, Written & Directed by Jaclyn Bethany
Following the precedent set in 2017, where we saw female-dominated films like Wonder Woman and Lady Bird achieve much-deserved success, it is perhaps unsurprising that esteemed writer, director and actress, Jaclyn Bethany, has delivered a captivating tale where the very nature of womanhood is brought to the forefront. We at Arteviste have been fortunate enough to watch the pilot and review it before its official release.
Bethany, a graduate of the prestigious American Film Institute Conservatory (earning an M.F.A in Directing), has in her recent pilot, The Rehearsal, attempted to represent the core archetypes that we, as women, are often portrayed as on screen. While the film focuses on the central character of Anne, a rising theatre star, Bethany cleverly juxtaposes Anne against the other female characters in a way that illuminates the literal roles women are often written into.
Bethany herself expertly plays the complex character of Anne, who broadly fits the archetype of the 'sinful young woman’ reminiscent of famed characters like Hester Prynne from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter and Abigail Williams from Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Similarly to these infamous characters, Anne, through whose eyes the story unfolds, has suffered damage to her reputation for sexual improprieties. If I had to guess, I would infer that Bethany is intentionally hinting towards Anne’s similarities to Hester and Abigail, given that she has written Miss Julie, the play for which Anne is rehearsing, to be set in what appears to be a colony of some sort (the details are unclear).
Given that both The Scarlet Letter and The Crucible take place in the early 17th century Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony, it would seem that Miss Julie takes place in a similar location. The costumes support this line of thought, but it is never confirmed. Moreover, Anne’s character within the play is provocative, flirtatious and teeters on the edge of scandalous for most of the film which only intensifies her link with Abigail Williams. Upon reflection, it seems that Anne, as herself, resembles Hester Prynne while Anne as ‘Julie’ mirrors Abigail Williams.
Bethany manages, in the short span of just forty-five minutes, to present Anne as a highly complex and layered character while also introducing us to the other intense women who orbit her. We meet Helen, the jilted ex-wife of Anne’s current husband, Tate, with whom Anne had an affair while he was still married to Helen. She presents the all too familiar archetype of the ‘bitter, lonely, but financially successful woman.’ Think Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada. We also encounter Naomi, the second lead in Miss Julie, who is revealed to be seducing the play's director as a means of furthering her career, and, therefore, falls into the role of the ‘sexually manipulative self-interested social climber.’ Think Charlotte Warren in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. As if that isn’t enough nuanced content, Bethany also manages to develop the characters of both Anne’s stepdaughter and the female assistant of Anne’s theatre director, who, while they play minor characters, further demonstrate the predictability of female roles.
While I shan’t divulge the ending, I will say that Bethany makes a point of stressing the complexities of female sexuality and how it is often shown in ‘classical’ story-telling to be the root cause of a woman’s undoing.
I would also be remiss to end this review without singling-out the breathtaking performance of Tina Benko as Helen, whose heated and raw monologue was arguably the standout scene of the film. Based on the dialogue alone, the character of Helen could have quickly been received as a flat, one-dimensional supporting role; however, Benko’s understated authenticity ultimately animated the character into an unapologetically broken woman.
Overall, The Rehearsal is a dense forty-five-minute ride into the world of show business that sears with the intensity of psychological thrillers like The Black Swan (directed by Darren Aronofsky), while simultaneously seducing the audience with the icy slow-burn between characters as seen in films like The Exception (directed by David Leveaux).
The Rehearsal Credits:
Written & Directed by Jaclyn Bethany
Produced by Alida Rose Delaney & Suze Myers
Executive Produced by Jaclyn Bethany & Mikhail Makeyev on behalf of BKE Productions
Cinematography by Irene Gomez-Emilsson
Edited by Hammad Hassan
Featuring: Shay Lee Abeson, Tina Benko, Jaclyn Bethany, Caitlin Carver, Christy Escobar, Alex Hurt, Katelyn Kapocsi, Rileigh McDonald, Caroline Newton, Adam David Thompson & James Udom
Written by Maya Asha, Editorial Assistant and Contributor to Arteviste