After spending the night together on the night of their college graduation Dexter and Em are shown each year on the same date to see where they are in their lives. They are sometimes together, sometimes not, on that day.
Kym Buchman has been in drug rehab for nine months, during which time she has been clean. She is released temporarily from the facility to attend her sister Rachel Buchman's wedding. During her release, Kym is staying at the family home, where the wedding is taking place. As such, it is like Grand Central Station for the duration of Kym's stay, which may not be the most conducive situation for her in constantly being exposed to the watching eyes of those who know and don't yet know her, but know of her situation. The reunion with her family members starts off well enough, but issues around Kym's release from rehab quickly surface. Kym and Rachel's father, Paul Buchman, wants to make sure that Kym is all right at all times, which to Kym feels instead like he doesn't trust her. Rachel slowly begins to resent Kym's situation taking over what is supposed to be the happiest day of her life, some of which is directed by Kym, some of which isn't. One person present but largely not included ... Written by
Demme back in fine form and Hathaway with her first really fantastic performance
This pitch-black-comedy-cum-drama, Rachel Getting Married, bucks two kinds of marriage movies that are fairly common in the two sides of release: one is the schmaltzy, dumb mainstream rom-com like Maid of Honor or The Wedding Planner where A-List actors go in the motions of a batch of conventions-by-checklist, and the other is a glum, mean indie picture like Margot at the Wedding (can't think of others right now like it's ilk, wouldn't want to). What helps it make it not just watchable, or appealing, but a very good movie, is the fact that the screenplay- by Sidney's daughter Jenny Lumet (as every critic has noted)- is very true to the tragic dimensions amid such a hectic weekend at a Connecticut, upper-middle class house where a wedding will take place with some bad memories and skeletons opened in the process.
In fact, for all of Jonathan Demme's efforts to give it a raw and spontaneous energy- he's said it's akin to Altman but I sensed more-so Cassavetes- his approach works best, even at a rough-edged masterful level, when characters are talking/arguing/yelling in a room. Lumet's story involves the title character (Rosemarie DeWitt) in a weekend where there's much happiness for her and her to-be-spouse, and a good lot of tension because of her sister, Kym (Hathaway), getting out of rehab for the weekend to come to the occasion.
To say she's the black sheep is somewhat sugar-coating it, and nearly every moment Hathaway is on camera (or, somewhat in the Altman mode, Demme manages to catch her off-guard in a moment or with a look) is electrifying, by far her best performance if only because she finally has a character to really dig her 'acting' heels into. It could be very easy, too easy, to make it a walking/bitching cliché, but Hathaway finds those moments, especially off of DeWitt or in one important scene with Debra Winger as her absentee mother, to make it as honest as possible. Although she is just one part of the component of the ensemble- what Demme focuses as an ensemble- it makes the film all the more remarkable than without her playing this troubled young woman with a past that puts a dark cloud over everyone around her.
And around this theme of too much or ill-placed love in a family that should be nothing but happiness, Demme makes it both warm and sad in equal measure. Maybe I'm more of a sucker for harrowing familial scenes or a solid hand-held argument ala Husbands and Wives, but those come off a bit better than the bigger scenes of fun and excitement and enjoyment in the actual wedding proceedings. But just a bit - Demme's approach comes somewhere in the range of a home movie and, once or twice, reality TV, and it's a quality that, when not overboard, is really refreshing and inviting. Demme is fascinated by this multi-cultural group, with its eclectic music and irreproachable camaraderie, and he asks us to be fascinated and enjoy it with the characters. This is the only tricky part of the picture, but one I wasn't daunted by; there's a real "indie-movie" spark here that's indescribable.
At the end of it all, I'll remember Rachel Getting Married more as an exceptional experiment than a truly great film, but anyone completely sick of seeing ads for sappy marriage comedies or films that treat the families or people gearing up for a wedding like paper figures would do themselves a favor seeking it out. It is, in a square enough word, lively.
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