Rachel Getting Married
Jonathan Demme has some range. He presented a haunting psychological thriller with the help of Hannibal Lecter in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, he took on grand themes and social issues in PHILADELPHIA, and now has toned down a bit for a small, intimate film about a wedding… which is equally, if not more, emotionally affecting. RACHEL GETTING MARRIED invites the viewer as a family friend to attend this wedding, and to feel right at home. This feeling is fostered by Demme’s use of a wandering camera, which could be held by one of the guests, and a script by Jenny Lumet, daughter of director Sidney Lumet, which creates characters we genuinely care about. But mostly it’s the acting that adds the most gravity to the film, and the brunt of that responsibility falls on Anne Hathaway. And she carries it like a champ.
Hathaway plays Kym, the sister of the bride, released on furlough from her rehab clinic to attend the wedding. And though it is Rachel’s wedding, she knows that due to her family’s support of Kym’s fragile sobriety, coupled with Kym’s own narcissism, she must surrender some of the spotlight during her wedding. Rosemarie DeWitt plays Rachel’s conflict beautifully, with kid gloves early, but later letting that frustration build, and then holding it together again. DeWitt plays Rachel with a complex realism that maybe Hathaway should have emulated, at least a little bit, in BRIDE WARS. As for Hathaway, the dimensions she shows as Kym are so diverse they can be labeled as manic; from her narcissistic train wreck of a rehearsal dinner toast to her heartbreaking confessions at AA meetings, Hathaway makes us love, hate and feel sorry for Kym at different parts of the movie, but never half-heartedly. Hathaway sells each emotion to the fullest, and with the tragedy that is the elephant in the room all during the wedding, selling that emotion can’t help but break your heart. She is remarkable. And then she did BRIDE WARS.
The cinematography is not the only way Demme invites the viewer as a participant in the wedding. As tempted as I’m sure he was to use The Dixie Cups “Going to the Chapel,” all the music heard throughout the movie is performed by the guests, including the groom, played by Tunde Adebimpe, and a slew of eclectic musicians seemingly stolen from a 1980’s Paul Simon album. Not to sell him short though, Adebimpe also plays Sidney as the groom should be; quiet, supportive, but loved and loving to all family members. Another smaller part, but pivotal and incredibly touching is Bill Irwin as Paul, father of the bride and train wreck. The sadness of the family tragedy is in his face the whole movie, even as he tries so hard to project happiness for Rachel and support for Kym. And the moments when that sadness overtakes him will jerk a tear from even the hardest of hearts.
But this is Anne Hathaway’s movie. I have described her as a wreck, but like most, you can’t take your eyes off of it. She even faces off with another Oscar nominee in Debra Winger, playing Kym’s mother, in an explosive scene that completes the circle of the wide range of emotions she is charged with expressing, only to take it down again for the close. I wouldn’t have missed this wreck for the world.