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Rachel Getting Married (A PopEntertainment.com Movie Review)

Rachel Getting Married


Starring Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Bill Irwin, Tunde Adebimpe, Mather Zickel, Deborah Winger, Anna Deavere Smith, Anisa George, Jerome LePage, Beau Sia, Dorian Missick, Tamyra Gray, Fab Five Freddie and Robyn Hitchcock.

Screenplay by Jenny Lumet.

Directed by Jonathan Demme.

Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics. 113 minutes. Rated R.

Sometimes you see a movie in which the acting is so good that nothing else really matters – plot, effects, direction, dialogue: it’s all gravy. 

These are not always necessarily good films, but the power with which they are presented makes them seem stronger, more substantive, than they necessarily deserve to be. 

Director Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs, Beloved) has a history with this – Tom Hanks’ scorching lead performance in the AIDS drama Philadelphia masked the fact that the film was a rather manipulative and threadbare courtroom melodrama. With Rachel Getting Married, Demme hits the trifecta – capturing three stunning female performances – and in the process stops the career skid which has left him toiling on remakes of earlier, better movies (The Manchurian Candidate, The Truth About Charlie) for the last several years. 

Three actresses here deserve serious Oscar consideration for their stunning work – Anne Hathaway for Best Actress and Rosemarie DeWitt and Debra Winger for Best Supporting Actress. 

The fact that Rachel Getting Married actually turns out to be mostly a good film as well is just a nice bonus.

Particularly when it is a member of one of the most tired film genres – the wedding movie – though, granted, it is the eccentric cousin to the average marriage flick. 

However, Jonathan Demme and cameraman Declan Quinn have given screenwriter’s occasionally clichéd story a nice naturalistic style which recalls Demme’s eccentric storytelling of the director’s arresting earliest work with the likes of Melvin and Howard and Citizen’s Band

Life is being lived here – in all its messy, quirky, funny, angry, passionate and beautiful glory. 

Of course, just like in real life, the actual wedding goes on way too long and is not nearly as interesting as all that has led up to it. You do have to give them coolness kudos for getting Robyn Hitchcock as the wedding singer, though.

What leads up to the wedding is a pretty fascinating look at family – the ties that bind, the secrets that fester and the sense of infinite knowledge and shared history which makes it nearly impossible to behave as you would in any other situation. 

Hathaway plays Kym, a woman in her late 20s who has been in and out of rehab since her teen years. She is angry, cynical, damaged, horribly guilty about a past family secret and holding onto her sobriety by a thread. She leaves rehab in New York to return to her sister Rachel’s (DeWitt) wedding at their Connecticut family home. 

Rachel has always been the dependable sister and she has enough going on in her life with the wedding, so that she doesn’t want to deal with the amped-up drama of her little sister. However, she is dragged into it, allowing Kym to guilt her into replacing her best friend as maid of honor.

Their father is trying desperately to constantly be a peacemaker, while their mother is completely unable to share her feelings about anything. The parents are divorced and each remarried – and while it is never said specifically, it appears to be a direct result of Kym’s tragic teen error.

It is to the movie’s credit that nothing at all is made of the fact that the bride and groom are biracial, and in the wedding events guests of all backgrounds and classes mix easily and naturally. 

In the end, Rachel Getting Married avoids the obvious happy ending that so many movies of its sort would make. Instead, it shows that sometimes family life means uneasy truces and loving each other despite flaws. 

As such, Rachel Getting Married is a much more interesting film than most wedding movies, because, for a change, a movie actually has some unique things to say about “in sickness and in health, ’til death do us part.”

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: November 16, 2008.


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