Rachel Getting Married (2008), or Demme’s Opera

25 12 2009

All right, I’ve been wanting to review this film for a long time, and I’m glad I finally have the chance. Jonathan Demme is a director I’ve never really dealt with on this site, and I think that’s a shame, because he is such an amazing director with such an irresistible eye for the beauty and the emotion in the real world. His naturalistic style brings to life the world we live in but neglect to revel in. Anyone who has seen Silence of the Lambs knows how much he is able to imbue our world with powerful feelings, and today’s film proves that, yet again, Demme’s eye for natural drama can have heartbreakingly beautiful results, as he tell this lush story of regret and familial recrimination.

Rachel Getting Married is about Kym, a young woman in rehab who is allowed to leave to attend her sister’s wedding. Her family isn’t exactly thrilled to see her arrive. Her exploits in the past have cost the family a lot, and all she seems to greet them with are more headaches, more drama. Her sister, Rachel, harbors a lot of resentment towards Kym, and the family is trying to cope with a terrible tragedy that befell them at Kym’s irresponsible hands. Her father is trying to be there for her, but Kym sees all this as him not trusting her to handle sobriety. Rachel’s special day seems less and less cheery to her as Kym continues to take the spotlight away with her addiction, going so far as to use her wedding rehearsal toast as part of her twelve step program. Things just grow worse and worse between this estranged family, and when an unexpected visit from one of Kym’s rehab acquaintances nearly shatters the bonds between Kym and Rachel, is there anything that Kym can do to regain her family’s love? Or will it be too little, too late?

MAN! What a heartbreaker! Rachel Getting Married has all the drama of an opera combined with the realism of a documentary and makes something really special out of it. I could not take my eyes off the screen for a minute as this train wreck of a family unfolded in front of my eyes. The story, written by Jenny Lumet, is a powerful, exasperating drama that leaves you without much breath in your lungs. Kym is a painfully real character that I have personally met a number of times in my life; a selfish person whose addiction springs from an inability to cope with reality. They’re not heartless people, and they deserve love, but Kym constantly proves that selfishness is a hell all its own, and the faithfulness of this character to reality is just more impressive than words can do justice.

I would consider this to be Anne Hathaway’s breakout role as an actress. If Havoc was her first foray into something a bit more daring, this pushes the envelope over the cliff and into the sun as far as serious drama. She plays Kym like a real artist; not band-standing, not competing for lines, not degrading into silly Hollywood archetypes. This character breathes, and Hathaway takes none of it for herself. I appreciated that, and I think it was one of the best performances I have seen from 2008. I really think she has arrived; you will never look at Hathaway the same way again after this. Rosemarie DeWitt also proves she has something to offer as Rachel. You know, the one getting married. She has her own set of issues as a character, and DeWitt handles it beautifully and tastefully as a bride to be distraught over her everything coming undone. DeWitt has an undeniable intensity that adds something to the frenzied bride she plays that I rather liked. Bill Irwin is Kym’s father, the kind and unassuming gent who only wants her to be happy. He’s a Broadway actor, and I thought at first that he would be a little, let’s say overzealous, in his performance. Luckily, he keeps his Broadway belting down a notch and manages to keep everything very demure and intimate. I like him overall, and hope to see less musical output from him in the future. Debra Winger rounds out the cast as the mother, Abby. A hard-to-read character, she is at once a ghost of a character and the most important character, because she is the one who has the hardest time dealing with Kym and her addiction. Debra Winger does an amazing job, and I think her climactic scene with her daughter near the end deserved some accaim from the Academy. It’s an intense scene, well played by everyone and captured exquisitely by Jonathan Demme.

I think everyone should watch Rachel Getting Married. It’s one of the best movies I have seen from 2008, and I really regret not watching it sooner. It is a family drama that has almost no peerage. It’s moving, exquisitely shot, well-acted, and very close to resembling reality. Anne Hathaway finally comes into her own here, and I think this film will be looked at as a watershed moment in her career. If you want something to really make you feel this Christmas, look no further than this glowing DVD recommendation! I give this, Jonathan Demme’s greatest film of the decade, a well-earned 10 Fab 5 Freddy cameos out of 10! My highest recommendation!

(Oh, did I tell you that Fab 5 Freddy is one of the wedding guests? For no reason, apparently. WEIRD, HUH?)

Tomorrow I take on my last PSA with Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi!