Jonathan Demme’s latest is a wonderful look at the reunion and attempted mending of semi-dysfunctional family that harbors lots of hidden grief and angst, and is overbear one another with their coping of a tragedy.
Kym (Anne Hathaway) sits on a bench, awaiting her pick up from rehab, so she can go to the festivities leading up to and finally attend her sister Rachel’s (Rosemarie DeWitt) wedding at the family home. Before Kym leaves we find out she killed someone with her car, which is probably a reason for being in rehabilitation, when she is “rescued” by her father, Paul (Bill Irwin), who is happy to see his daughter, but is almost immediately overbearing her, trying to care of her a bit too much. They arrive to the house with Kym’s step-mom Carol warning her in the car that it might be a bit crazy and crowded around the house while things are being set up and arranged. Luckily, only Rachel and her friend Emma are staying at the house, where Kym hopes to be able to get away from judgmental eyes once everyone is gone. First things first though, Rachel and Kym have a sweet reunion, incredibly happy to see one another, before Kym heads off to her 12 Steps meeting and is left to ride a bike after her father refuses to let her drive. At the meeting she storms in on a green shirted man telling his story and giving hope to those in the room to keep going strong through his personal struggle. Upon returning to the house, Kym meets Rachel’s fiancé Sidney and his Best Man, Kieran (Mather Zickel), who happens to be the green shirted man from 12 Steps, after a “bonding” moment between Kym and Kieran, she discovers that she is not the Maid of Honor to her sister, and the wheels slowly being to rattle off.
The film from her on out is a character study of these three main family members as they deal with their reunion and resurfacing memories from their pasts in the mist of a grand, beautiful, musically and culturally enlightened wedding. And speaking of the wedding, which is practically a fourth character of its own in this film, it has to be one of the most creative and fun weddings ever put on screen, the music, the dancing the culture, it is a beautiful thing to watch come together and is a joy to go through with these characters. The film’s first third has a long portion of the film where we simply are a fly on the wall in the proceedings, watching musical well wishes and toasts at the dinner rehearsal dinner straight up for about 10-15 minutes, and while it is a bit odd at first, it allows us to get to know all these characters as they share their stories and connects us closer and closer to them as we learn more about them. It also houses one of the most painfully awkward scenes in a film in a while when Kym gets up to make her toast and tries to cut through the tension that comes with her doing anything.
The acting is top notch across the board here as well and there are plenty of great moments to reference as well its all a bit much to do here. Anne Hathaway deserves every bit of Oscar buzz as she is getting as she is fantastic in this film. She walks a fine line of being overly self absorbed, while just trying to be herself, but constantly having to be on the defensive to someone at almost any moment. She has to take berating over and over again as she is blamed for a lot of pain from the closet people to her and Hathaway carries Kym through the pain and struggle with amazing talent and defiance, perfectly hitting the notes she needs to make her sympathetic and frustrating all at the same time. Rosemarie DeWitt also does a very fine job of evolving Rachel throughout the picture, and creating someone who covers this grand arc but you never lose respect for, even with the way she treats her family at points. She plays a hypocrite with a point, but remains blind to that she is acting out just as much as she might thing Kym is at certain points. And she also totally sells her relationship with Sidney as you really feel there passion for one another, with Tunde Adebimpe quietly playing Sidney with class and sanity as he is the only person that is all the way there emotionally out of the leads. Bill Irwin also does some fantastic work as the father of these girls as he barrels down and emotional roller coaster trying to cope with his past as he prepares for his daughters’ futures. His compassion for his daughters is completely genuine while still showing us his overburden’s with Kym where we never feel like he is on her too much. Mather Zickel also does a great job at lightening up the proceeding when they tend to get a bit heavy and offers a positive outlook and supporter for Kym with her family when she needs some defensive help, without taking the traditional route a film maker might take in making the opposite ends overly combative, and instead subtly (well mostly) have them discuss their problems with one another. Debra Winger also pops up and makes the most of her screen time as the mother of these two girls and quietly lets on something more happened among these people, that we never find out what, but that while they love her, something about their Mom holds them back from accepting what she has become that leaves us the viewer to figure out what that might be.
And that is where Jonathan Demme excels here as he is able to convey all of these true human emotions in this film without coming across as melodramatic. We just simply feel like we are getting to experience this moment in these people’s lives and it feels incredibly real and natural from everyone involved.
In the end, Rachel Getting Married is one of the finest independent and overall films of the year. The emotional, funny, touching, sad story of this family is a wonderful experience and one that I beg you to seek out and experience. The film moves from serious to light with ease and is filled with great performances throughout and is one that you shouldn’t miss.