Sunday, March 8, 2009

Rachel Getting Married (2008)

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The Jist
Rachel Getting Married is not so much the story of Rachel, but the story of her drug and tragedy addled sister Kym, played by Anne Hathaway. Kym is home from rehab for the first time in years for her sister's wedding and confronts her past mistakes as she tries to recapture a sense of normal life. The nature of coping, forgiveness, and the structure of family relationships are explored as a dysfunctional family is reunited for a weekend.

What's Good
Directed by Jonathan Demme, best known for Silence of the Lambs, Rachel Getting Married may be the most honest film of the year. The events of a weekend wedding, from rehearsal dinner to reception, aren't sugar coated or dramatized whatsoever, but presented as they really occur, for better or worse. The "take it as it is" approach Demme utilizes allows his cast to disappear into their characters which yields several solid performances. Bill Irwin, as Kym's dad Paul, turns in a strong performance as a not so in-touch father always trying to look at the bright side of things, and Tunde Adebimpe (of TV on the Radio) is surprisingly good among veteran actors as Rachel's husband-to-be. The script, by debut screenwriter Jenny Lumet, is blunt and dark but also has a few light-hearted moments, just like the dysfunctional family it involves. The situations are real and believable, and the direction, script, and performances allow the viewer to feel as if they are within the scenes.

What's Not so Good
At times, Demme's "home video" filming style leads to scene's dragging on way beyond their welcome, at times minutes longer than the audience would expect or desire. The rehearsal dinner, which has its share of crucial moments for the film, feels like literally the entire rehearsal dinner. And just like the real thing, where the toast speeches start to run dry after the second or third one, the stories begin to grow old fast and by the time Kym delivers her powerful speech, it has been tainted by all the unnecessary footage that came before it. Almost every main scene drags on as the camera continues to follow the action well beyond what would be necessary to advance the plot in order to deliver the "window into reality" perspective. The film easily could have been 15-20 minutes shorter, and would have been a much tighter, more fierce portrayal of the weekend, even if some of the intimacy of the moment was lost.

What You'll Remember
This film is Anne Hathaway's announcement to the world that she is the real deal. She was a major figure in Brokeback Mountain, but until now, Hathaway was just the girl from Princess Diaries. But with this performance as Kym, likely the best of the year by any actress, she has proven that she can bring depth and range to a role. Kym is high strung but burnt out, desperate to change but stuck in a rut, apologetic but bitter, hopeful but defeated, and Hathaway delivers the full spectrum with great intensity in nearly every scene. Her performance is up against the odds of tedium, but a great role and a solid supporting cast provide the perfect recipe for her career-best effort.

Good for: fans of dysfunctional family films, Hathaway fans, filmmakers, addicts

Bad for: people who sleep through movies

The Gallery
The Surfer: * * * *

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