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USA 2008
Directed by
Jonathan Demme
114 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
3.5 stars

Rachel Getting Married

Synopsis: Kym (Anne Hathaway) gets a weekend pass from rehab to go home for the wedding of her sister Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt). In true dysfunctional family manner, Kym’s return brings all sorts of simmering tensions to the surface, many of them based around a past tragedy which has scarred the family.

Jonathan Demme has directed several high profile films, notably Philadelphia (1993) and The Silence Of The Lambs (1991) . He is also a prolific documentary maker and this film in some ways has an almost doco/home movie feel with much hand-held camera work. It is not a film one instantly likes, possibly due to the initial unlikeability of many of the characters and yet it has an admirably raw truthfulness in depicting the awkwardness of their relationships.

Authenticity is created by Demme’s casting approach. Because he focusses on a couple of large wedding scenes (the rehearsal and the actual wedding), he invited some of his own friends and acquaintances to be the guests. Chief among these are a collection of musicians, many from the Middle East, who jam a rather imposing variety of melancholy melodies that really stand out in one’s mind. What with the unscored music and the spontaneous unfurling of events and scenes, unscripted and filmed as they happen, there is a freshness and level of reality not usually associated with “wedding” films, making you feel that are actually there as a participant.

Rachel Getting Married also explores the hate-versus-love paradox of family life. This family has more tensions than a high wire cable, especially between the two sisters, whose conversations are often fraught and gut-wrenching. The dark tragedy which is eventually revealed only creates more conflict and recriminations between the characters, especially Kym and her mother. And yet there is a sense of connection throughout and a real beauty to the actual wedding that occurs parallel to a meeting of addicts which Kym attends.

Anne Hathaway moves into serious acting territory here and has been nominated for an Oscar for her performance. She appears in almost every scene – always a hard burden to shoulder – and she carries it off admirably. Kym’s searing, at times almost offensive, honesty makes her a character hard to relate to and yet we mellow towards her by the film’s end as we grasp the enormity of what has happened to her and her vulnerability. De Witt as Rachel is a fine foil for Hathaway, and we feel their love/hate relationship keenly.

A lovely surprise for me was Debra Winger as the sisters’ mother, Abby, divorced from their father, Paul (Bill Irwin), who is now married to Carol (Anna Deavere Smith). This delicate triangle is beautifully handled.

The screenwriter, interestingly, is Sidney Lumet’s daughter, Jenny. Coming from a background of filmmakers and musicians she brings a depth and sensitivity to this challenging, but rewarding, film.




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