Review: Rachel Getting Married (2008)

rachel-getting-married

My wedding will consist of nothing but drunk Irish people living it up like only drunk Irish people can!

Written By: Jenny Lumet
Directed By: Jonathan Demme

Rachel may be getting married but this movie is all about Kym and her interactions with her family. Anne Hathaway is an actress I never paid much attention to, because she never gave me any reason to. You can understand my surprise when people in the film world were heralding her performance in this film, because to me she was still nondescript Disney star #27A. Well, those people were correct in exalting her performance, because it is quite a moving portrayal. If her acting in the general sense wasn’t convincing enough, it was her ability to leave the film with two distinct emotions that convinced me the rest of the way.

It’s very hard for any performer, and any film, to make you both hate and love them. Kym, and by extension Rachel Getting Married, is a film that accomplishes this task. Kym is all over the place, at times earning my sympathy for her plight and at others my wrath for how self absorbed and wrong she is in her actions. Jonathan Demme manages to use Kym, as well as the rest of the cast, to at times make me fall in love with them and at other times cringe in fear for what I am being put through. The rehearsal dinner speech is the prime example of this. It starts out with me feeling sorry for Kym, because she is an outsider among her own family. Then as she continues to talk I just want it to end, it is excruciating to watch, painful to endure and the end can’t come fast enough. It is a testament to Demme’s skills as a director and Hathaway’s skills as an actress that they are able to engender such raw emotion from the viewer.

People have argued that Rachel Getting Married is too much of a downer, that it is a trip through the depths of someone’s soul with no light at the end of the tunnel. My response to that is twofold. First, life isn’t always pretty, it is a series of awkward conversations and moments you wish you could take back. Secondly, the ending was very much a light in my eyes. We don’t know for sure what will happen, but I was left with the impression that this pressure cooker of a situation and the incidents that occurred because of it may have left Kym with a better chance at staying clean than she ever had before.

While Hathaway turned in the performance of her young career, I would be remiss in not also mentioning the fine performances of Bill Irwin as her father Paul and Rosemarie Dewitt as the bride herself, Rachel. Irwin is a doting father, funny, amicable and also deeply concerned for his daughters and his family. Dewitt is very much the conflicted sibling, she loves her sister but she also hates her sister for all that she has done and all the help she has rebuked. Those two performances and a plethora of fitting supporting roles round out a superbly put together cast.

Rachel Getting Married shows you the bare soul of a young woman and strips away the pomp and circumstances of a family so that all that we are left with is their exposed raw emotion. This is displayed in countless great scene after great scene, with both high drama and a dose of comedy here and there. Once scene in particular was looking to be the high point of Rachel Getting Married until one giant misstep occurred. The dishwasher contest scene was a unique scene and an interesting way of displaying the family dynamic. Unfortunately that plate with Ethan’s name on it had to rear its ugly head and derail what had been a fantastic scene. In the entire movie that was the only moment that didn’t ring true and felt like a heavy handed emotional reveal.

Jonathan Demme has put forth another great effort with Rachel Getting Married. Anne Hathaway has also made her mark as an actress with tremendous potential. The documentary style of film making in Rachel Getting Married really helps with the raw nature of the film and the realism that Demme was striving for. Rachel Getting Married is an emotional roller coaster full of real characters and real incidents that should touch home for any number of viewers. Take a step away from the Hollywood ideal of drama and watch something a bit more realistic, watch Rachel Getting Married.

Rating:

***1/2

Cheers,
Bill

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2 responses to “Review: Rachel Getting Married (2008)

  1. There was great character development in this film. I was floored by Hathaway’s performance. She seemed secluded in silly comedies, but this was a breakout performance. I’d even say the RGM is one of my favorite films that use that hand held camera filming technique. As you said, it helped capture a lot of emotion and made many of the key sequences feel real. I didn’t have much of a problem with the plate scene, except that maybe it did take me out of the story for a moment. It reminded me that I was watching a film, whereas much of the rest felt seemless between fiction and a documentary.

  2. I think this role managed to do what Havoc failed at. In that film Hathaway equated showing her tits and fucking a lot with being a grown up actress. Here she let her acting do the talking, and the results were much better and much more grown up.

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