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.
fact that Rachel Getting Married actually turns out to be mostly a
good film as well is a 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
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.
is being lived here – in all its messy, quirky, funny, angry, passionate and
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,
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 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
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.