© 2008 Ray Wong
A definitive independent film, Rachel Getting Married is set on a festive weekend at the Buchman family, when high emotions and personalities come to a head.
Kym (Anne Hathaway) is a young woman who's been in and out of rehab for ten years. She gets to spend the weekend with her family in Connecticut when her older sister, Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) is getting married to Sidney (Tunde AdeBimpe). Upon arrival, Rachel tries to fit in and find something in common with her estranged family, but her insecurity eventually gets the best of her.
Kym feels like her father, Paul (Bill Irwin), is constantly keeping an eye on her, and Rachel doesn't even want her there. Meanwhile, her mother, Abby (Debra Winger), is nowhere to be found. Trying to cope with the alienation and the feeling that her presence is the elephant in the room, Rachel starts to act up. She demands her sister to make her the maid of honor, and she lashes out on her father for being protective. The only solace she finds is a new love interest: fellow recovering addict Kieran (Mather Zickel), who is also Sidney's best friend and best man.
As Rachel's nuptial approaches, the tension comes to a boil, and we eventually finds out what happened to Kym and her family. The myriad of emotions resurface as the family tries to put on a happy face. Kym begins to understand that the pain doesn't just go away; she needs to deal with it and there's no escaping anymore.
Anne Hathaway (Get Smart) is an intelligent actress, and she often surprises us with her and grown-up roles in critically acclaimed films such as Brokeback Mountain and The Devil Wears Prada. She's left her cutesy Princess Diary behind her. Here, she goes one step further, portraying a deeply troubled woman with a heartbreaking, nuanced performance. Unfortunately, her character is so depressing and she does struggle to bring some light to the material.
Rosemarie DeWitt (Cinderella Man) is excellent as the "perfect" Rachel, a complete opposite of Hathaway's Kym. But beneath the beauty and grace and happiness, there lies deep resentment and jealousy, and DeWitt does a great job bringing all that to life. It's not easy to be the "perfect child" when your parents spend their lives caring and protecting your "never-do-good" sibling, and DeWitt's subtle portrayal is spot on. Mather Zickel (Balls of Fury) is gregarious and charming as Kieran, the recovering junkie who understands Kym better than anyone else.
Bill Irwin (Across the Universe) is sympathetic as the patriarch who is hiding his true feelings for his children. Anna Deavere Smith (The Kingdom) is in fine form in a small role as Rachel and Kym's stepmother. It's great to see Debra Winger (Eulogy) coming out of her semi-retirement in a small but pivotal role as Abby, Rachel and Kym's mother. She's lovely, beautiful, graceful, and in one particular scene, reminds us why she's still one of the best actresses of our generation.
Written by Jenny Lumet, the script is loosely structured, taking on a documentary way of storytelling. The secrets and information flows in organically. Lumet sets the story in a few days, and frames everything within the context of the wedding. The problem is, the story feels more like a character study, but we don't really get to know anything deep about these characters, except that they're sad, depressed, conflicted. The story is largely plotless, and sometimes we simply don't know where it's going. In a way, it is kind of nice to see a film without any specific plot or resolution -- it's very much counter-programming. On the other hand, it'd take more interesting characters to hook us and string us on. Some of these characters come across as irritating and depressive.
Director Jonathan Demme (The Manchurian Candidate) is a seasoned director with an Oscar to prove it. But here, he opts for a documentary feel completely with shaky cam and a washed-out video look. That's not so bad all by itself, but my feeling is that the film could use a different approach to perk up. The combination of the style and the story makes the film more depressing than it should be.
Demme also goes overboard with documenting the wedding, drawing out the story to almost two hours with a thin plot. There's a certain voyeuristic feel to it, as if we were crashing someone's wedding party. The result is a tiresome portrayal of a dysfunctional family and a story which could have been told in thirty minutes instead of two hours. By the second half, the movie just drags on and on with not much else going on and no definitive resolve at the end.
While Rachel Getting Married is an interesting concept and characters study with some sharp performances, it feels more like an artistic exercise with too much cinematic navel gazing to really make us care. The tone is too somber and the plot is not interesting enough to keep us there. The intention is certainly honorable, but the result is a misstep. If I had my way, the film would likely be retitled as Ray Getting Bored.
Stars: Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Mather Zickel, Bill Irwin, Anna Deavere Smith, Anisa George, Tunde Adebimpe, Debra Winger
Director: Jonathan Demme
Writer: Jenny Lumet
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
MPAA Rating: R for language and brief sexuality
Running Time: 114 Minutes
Script – 5
Performance – 8
Direction – 5
Cinematography – 6
Editing – 6
Production – 7
Total – 6.1 out of 10