Monday, November 10, 2008

Rachel's Getting Married And We're All Invited

Rachel Getting Married

Someone once told me that funerals and weddings bring out the worst in families. The latter is especially true in Jonathan Demme’s latest film, “Rachel Getting Married”. Fresh off a lengthy stint in rehab, Kym (Anne Hathaway) returns home for her sister’s, Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt), wedding. Despite the initial pleasantries, the presence of Kym clearly causes tension amongst the family. Despite her father’s (Bill Irwin) best efforts to maintain the peace, Kym’s unstable nature only helps to fan the flames that have been simmering for a longtime. As the hours get closer to the big event, the emotional scars of the past become more pertinent. Forcing the family, including Kym’s remarried mother (Debra Winger), to confront several important issues left unspoken.

The way that emotional baggage of the past unfolds is what made “Rachel Getting Married” really standout for me. Picture watching someone slowly peeling off a band aid and then picking at the scab underneath until bleeds and you get a sense of what this film is like. There are several wonderfully cringe inducing moments due to the realness, and emotional rawness, of the characters. Examples of this include: Kym’s speech at the rehearsal dinner, the scene at the substance abuser meeting, Kym’s encounter with her mother, the dishwasher competition, etc. In regards to the dishwasher scene, this also reminds me of something else that I loved about the film; the way in which humour and music were used throughout. The humour and music perfectly accentuated the joyful togetherness that comes from wedding related festivities. Yet Demme, like a skilled boxer he leads you left and hits you right, also uses those two devices to distract you just enough to set up some truly heartbreaking moments.

While both Demme and writer Jenny Lumet are to be praised for skillfully keeping “Rachel Getting Married” from becoming another clichéd film about dysfunctional families; the actors also deserve much of the credit as well. Anne Hathaway delivers a wonderful performance as Kym. She is never a character that you completely like, yet you cannot help but care for her. I guess that can also be said about several of the characters in the film, which is a testament to Lumet’s layering. Two of the best understated performances, in my opinion, came from Bill Irwin and Debra Winger. As the patriarch, Paul, Irwin must run through a course of emotions all while trying to keep the rope that is holding his family together from breaking. What I loved about Winger’s character, Abby, is that she says so much with her body language. At first you think that she is just cold and a tad flighty, yet as the film progresses you realize that she is just as damage, if not more, as everyone else. Although “Rachel Getting Married” may not be the feel good film of the year, I definitely think it is worth seeing.

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