Rachel Getting Married (Jonathan Demme, 2008)

I could’ve done without the herky-jerky home movie look (that thankfully is used intermittently).  It seemed more like a style thing than anything and didn’t really contribute anything immersion-wise.  And the screenplay by Jenny Lumet – Sidney’s daughter – could’ve used some tweaking here and there (a few too many of your run-of-the-mill family drama/in-fighting scenes, and a little too much exposition, which is inevitable I guess considering how many skeletons this poor family has in its closet, but still, bothered me a little bit. just a little, though 🙂 ).  But my complaints about lack of realism or immersion into the story/character relationship end there. I mean my god, excuse the cliché, but I felt like I knew this family (well, both families, of bride and groom) my entire life!  Sure, the family has its dysfunctions (and good lord is it dysfunctional, the eye of the storm being Anne Hathaway’s recovering drug addict Kym), but this movie just jumps right into its habits, the interrelationships, little character quirks, everything.  An interracial wedding with an Indian theme and Hendrix-like guitarist playing Here Comes the Bride and a smorgasbord of ethnic customs would seem odd enough, but you believe it – you believe these people would do this, because we just see it as is, and we see these two families soaking it in and loving it, and each other, without reservation.   How natural the rehearsal scene, the dinner scene with the speeches, and the wedding itself seemed!  How two families could drop dysfunctions and come together to celebrate.  Such warmth, such spontaneity, such realism in a wedding rehearsal of all things, right down to the Rachel-Sidney back-and-forth chant and this person or that tearing up and off-the-cuff, unrehearsed speeches.  You’re completely immersed in the goings-on of this family, and you don’t even need to be properly introduced.  The awkwardness of Kym and Rachel’s divorced parents coming together for the wedding, the deep pain felt over a family tragedy from years before, the dad’s quirky little obsession with loading the dishwasher a certain way – we don’t need exposition to tell us these things, we just need to observe the performances and how such things subtly affect these people in the back of their minds to know what’s really going on, to really feel right at home with them, no matter how unpleasant that might be.  This is as authentic as it gets.

And Kym…what a pitiful figure.  Her sister Rachel has every right to criticiz her for wanting all the attention on a day that belongs to her sister.  The suspense is palpable…even in a scene as warm-hearted as the dinner scene, we see a scorned Kym slouched in her chair and we feel that something awkward is coming, and that feeling just continues as those skeletons creep further and further out of the closet.  Kym pretty much is as pitiful and awkward as people see her as, but we still sympathize her (and even see an exasperated Rachel as the bad guy for a scant moment or two, if that’s at all possible), because she’s trying to recover, to be a better person, and in her words, to make amends.  Anne Hathaway’s great, playing up the vulnerability factor – cynical over how hellish her addiction has made her life, starving for attention just like Rachel says, and jealous of her universally-loved sister, but so clearly trying to be loved and forgiven and accepted.  Either way, she still has plenty of neuroses and demons to overcome.  Rarely does Hathaway’s Kym go overboard with emotion like you’d expect out of a strung-out junkie in a movie like this (although a scene between she and her mother, played by Debra Winger, where emotions fly is one of the film’s most devastating) – just seeing how subtly unhinged and uncomfortable she is around her seemingly judgmental family, and how that just builds up exponentially, particularly when contrasted with the sheer joy and warmth of the wedding-related gathering, is just plain painful.  But, it’s just one piece of the intricate puzzle that is a couple of days in the life of this most interesting family. If Hathaway loses out on the Best Actress prize to Kate Winslet and her unfathomably average paint-by-numbers performance in “The Reader,”….fuck that.

8.5/10

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