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In every actor's career there comes a moment where the critics and
audiences rally around jumping for joy about how they've just witnessed
a breakthrough performance. As stunning as these performances are, the
term "breakthrough" always felt a little out of place to me since it's
only on rare occasions the actor in question is relatively new. Most
times they are people who have been pounding the boards and scraping
the screen for years. In those terms, the breakthrough is nothing more
than a large group of people seeing that actor in a new light for the
first time, mostly in something they never imagined before. Now the
newly colored spotlight falls on Anne Hathaway and her powerful turn as
Kym in Rachel's Getting Married.
The film is a slice of life piece detailing a small space of time, only a few days, where Kym returns home from a rehab clinic just in time for her sister Rachel's wedding. Anyone who has ever taken part in arranging a wedding, especially one taking place in the family home, knows the extreme stress already present, so toss a young, partially unstable girl into the mix and top it off with a nice coating of family denial and dark skeletons in the hallway closet, then you get the full picture of this film. Relationships are strained, ties pulled so tight and taut they could snap and still they try to work it out through screaming, laughing and crying (not necessarily in that order). After all, it's about a wedding, who's not happy at those? Before giving Anne her due credit, let me shed some light on someone most people won't know off the top of their heads. Rosemarie DeWitt plays the title role of Rachel and she does it with the utmost tenderness and subtlety. What she brings across is the inherent hatred, resentment and unending compassion sisters can feel for each other, even through the worst of storms. With a film more comfortable in the category of "ensemble piece", Rosemarie is the catalyst and pushes the energy along, changing and charging every one of her scenes. But the light shines brightest on Anne Hathaway as Kym, the ex-junkie, ex-alcoholic, ex-return rehab patient bordering on becoming an ex-family member. Audiences claim this as a breakthrough performance because they fell in love with Anne in The Princess Diaries movies, Ella Enchanted and the wonderfully wicked The Devil Wears Prada. Yet what they might not remember is she's played rougher, tougher roles in Havoc and Brokeback Mountain, showing the more mature and adult side of her skills. So I wasn't all that shocked to witness the brilliance she brought to this film, but I will celebrate it all the same. Anne jumps in and exposes a vulnerability, a cavern of pain and lost love, which drives the emotional core of the picture. From opening credits to the closing moment, she is the elephant in the room everyone must deal with and the magical point is this is the first time where the audience can begin to empathize with the elephant and not the onlookers. I can't end the acting portion of this review without bringing up Bill Irwin and Debra Winger as well. Bill plays her father and churns out a tenderness only an accomplished actor such as himself could generate. There are such small moments, such tiny fractures in his facade which allow you to peer into the heart of a man trying to choose between his greatest love and his greatest loss. On the other side, Debra Winger plays her mother, who has chosen to block out the pain in her past and skate by the rest of her life, allowing the blackness and hurt to fester and suffocate any chance at a real connection with her daughters. As you can read, the acting on display here is sensational and will undoubtedly be remembered during awards season.
As a total film, I'm not sure the story reaches the same heights. A lot of great scenes and spectacular moments are created, but the story lacks cohesion. A particular subplot about the family and its deep love for music is mentioned and referred to over and over, but never fully explained or explored, which weighs down later scenes during the wedding celebration and the overlong musical sequences. During most of the musical moments, all I really wanted was to get back to the story, back to the family and to Kym. Also, the connection between Rosemarie and her soon-to-be husband Sydney (played by Tunde Adebimpe) never quite comes across. There is a wonderful moment during their wedding vows, but it could have been helped even more if their relationship had been more centered earlier on.
On the directing front, Jonathan Demme, with the assistance of a touchingly tender script from Jenny Lumet, helps craft a reality we can all believe in, a home we can all feel we've been to before. Much of this intimacy and nuance came from the free form style of camera movement, with the actors never knowing where and when the camera was going to appear on them. Everyone was basically playing everything from the moment he yelled action, so there were emotional surprises around every pan of the camera. That technique gave the movie a certain level of improv or even documentary feeling, like the audience was the most silent of voyeurs.
Recommendation: A powerful series of moments, filled with terrific acting, that don't quite come together as a film. Certainly has great value to witness, but the theater experience might not be necessary. Also, this really is meant for those viewers not afraid to open themselves up to it.
Maybe this is a generational thing but I wholeheartedly agree with
those who have said, "Excellent film sabotaged by execrable camera
work," "Teenagers Making Video," and "Rachel Gets Married, Audience
Gets Headache." When I was an engineer and again as a programmer, we
had a saying, "Just because you can do something doesn't mean you have
to do it." Last week I saw W. and had the same comment about it. The
hand held, shaky, up your actor's nose close-ups all distract from what
could be an interesting story. How I miss the carefully plotted camera
work of people like Gregg Toland (The Grapes of Wrath and Citizen
Kane), James Wong Howe (too many to mention), and Freddie Young
(Lawrence of Arabia). As Dennis Miller says, "of course, that's just my
opinion. I could be wrong."
I also feel that many of the scenes, particularly the wedding party, went on way, way too long. If I had wanted to watch my friend's long, boring, amateur wedding video, I could have stayed home and saved the price of admission.
Sitting through a movie about sibling rivalry at a wedding, especially
one starring the doe-eyed and normally facile Anne Hathaway, sounds
like a potentially painful way to spend an evening. However, as
directed by Jonathan Demme and written by Jenny Lumet (Sidney's
daughter), this 2008 drama is not a lightweight star vehicle à la Julia
Roberts circa 1997 but a darkly realistic look at the dysfunction
within a family thrown into disarray. Using an almost cinéma vérité
style, Demme explores how a wedding reopens old wounds within a family
in a naturalistic way made all the more palpable by the emotional
acuity in Lumet's screenplay.
The focus is on Kym, a chain-smoking former model who has spent the last several months in rehab. As a substance abuser whose only armor is cutting sarcasm, she is absurdly hopeful that her sister Rachel's wedding will be a harbinger for unconditional love from her upscale Connecticut family. Therein lies the problem as her narcissism provides the catalyst for long-simmering tensions that uncork during the preparations for a lavish, Indian-themed wedding weekend (the movie's working title was "Dancing with Shiva"). It soon becomes clear that Kym's link to a past tragedy is at the core of the unpredictable dynamics that force confrontations and regrettable actions among the four principal family members. Rachel appears to be Kym's sensible opposite, but their alternately close and contentious relationship shows how they have not full recovered from past resentments. Their remarried father Paul is a bundle of loving support to the point of unctuous for both his girls, while their absentee mother Abby is the exact opposite - guarded and emotionally isolated until she is forced to face both her accountability and anger in one shocking moment.
Anne Hathaway is nothing short of a revelation as Kym. Instead of playing the role against the grain of her screen persona, she really shows what would happen if one of her previous characters say, Andy Sachs in "The Devil Wears Prada" - went another route entirely. The actress' studiousness and persistence are still very much in evidence, but the story allows her to use these traits under the guise of a self-destructive, often unlikable addict who gains attention through her outrageous self-absorption. As the put-upon title character, Rosemarie DeWitt realistically shows Rachel's sense of pain and resentment as the attention veers to Kym during plans for the most important day of her life. Bill Irwin is winning as the unapologetically grateful Paul, but it's really Debra Winger who steals her all-too-brief scenes by bringing the remote character of Abby to life. Now in her early fifties, the famously tempestuous actress seems to rein in her innate fieriness to play a woman who consciously disconnects herself from the family she raised. What remains is a crumbling façade of propriety masking this obvious gap. It's similar to Mary Tyler Moore's turn as the cold mother in "Ordinary People", but casting the normally vibrant Winger (who probably would have played Kym a quarter century ago) is a masterstroke.
The film is not perfect. Demme's home-video approach, while novel at first, proves wearing over the 114-minute running time. Pacing is also a problem, especially when the focus turns to the minutiae of the wedding ceremony and reception. I wish Demme could have cut this part of the film, so we could get to the icy, unfinished resolution sooner. As a filmmaker who obviously enjoys making music concert films ("Stop Making Sense", "Neil Young: Heart of Gold"), there are quite a few musical performances presented in total. However, for non-aficionados, it may prove too much over time. While it's refreshing to see interracial marriages treated so casually (Lumet's grandmother is legend Lena Horne), Demme makes almost too big a point in presenting a global community though the diverse music and the wedding's multi-cultural themes. The movie starts to feel like a Putumayo collection of third-world performances. Still, Demme's intentions can't be faulted, and neither can the piercing work of Hathaway and Winger.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Ten minutes into watching this movie I was thinking: how much longer
will this last? This film sort of reminded me of the time my neighbor
brought their daughter's wedding video over and, to my wife's
embarrassment, I fast forwarded thru the ceremony, in front of them. By
that ten minute timeframe I was already thinking how this is like the
worst possible wedding video experience you could have ever lived thru
- combining the bad wedding video with the pre dinner and all the other
new age wedding experiences that have developed in the years since I
attended my first wedding, at the age of 6 when I was the ring bearer
at my cousin's wedding. During the pre dinner scene I just wanted to
hit the fast forward button and get to the drug addict sister's speech
-a bit of crappy standup that quickly turned into the very flat climax
of the scene - which I already figured was going to be her chance to
embarrass herself and her family while ostracizing everyone else.
The hand held camera work, changing film quality and grain, and the MTV hectic editing style totally removed any possibility that I might have been immersed in the "film experience", that thing that films are designed to do. Plus the story line was way too flawed, like how is it only the ex-addict daughter realizes the mother shouldn't have left a known drug addict to babysit a child (BIG), or, how come the daughter ends up with a split lip from a smack down with her mother but the mom doesn't get even a bruise from the daughter's Mike Tyson punch to her kisser (MINOR) during a scene where the mother erupts into complete anger while telling her daughter she killed her brother. Here's my take: cold and indifferent mom who had long lost any maternal feelings to her children was already having an affair with her soon to be new husband and left drug addict daughter with son while she snuck off for a quickie, tellingly shown in her priority to leave the wedding to take care of her husband's travel arrangements in the face of her daughter's clearly expressed need for some motherly interaction.
The PC attendance to the Diversity detail was too obvious and annoyingly in your face, leaving me to contemplate what Diverse element may have been excluded, and leaving me with the impression that I had just seen a bad film about a wedding that should have made number 1 on one of those TV reality shows about the world's most horribly designed theme weddings.
As to the acting, Rachel, the soon to be husband, real dad and mom, step mom and dad, and all of the other supporting actors and actresses were all played quite well, to the point where one would expect that all of those people were probably just like that in real life. Anne Hathaway's performance was just as good though it didn't leave me believing anything other than that she was an actress playing a role, which was probably more because of the writing than anything else. I sort of had the feeling that Lumet idea for character development for this role didn't go beyond what would happen at a wedding where one of the daughters was a drug addict who had previously killed her brother.
What would have made this film good would have been if it were a documentary, a real documentary, not a film, falling incredibly short of attempting to be . . .
A great performance by Anne Hathaway and a good story gets lost inside a horribly shot and edited film. Way to many "why did they do this" questions, way to many overly long scenes, and quite possibly the worst use of hand held camera technology in recent memory. 2 or 3 scenes could have been cut by more then half and gotten twice the effect. The use of music became annoying. People were walking out claiming to be nauseous, have headaches, etc. Would love to see have seen one steady shot, one establishing shot, one non-closeup. With that said, was worth seeing just for the performance of Anne Hathaway who was a revelation and now catapults to the head of the class of the 20 something acting class. This emotional performance marks a turning point in her career and makes me want to revisit some of her past performances to see what was there.
Jonathan Demme back in great form. That's the good news. I've read somewhere he didn't want to work with actors anymore. He wanted to stick to documentaries where freedom (as a filmmaker) is king. I'm glad he changed his mind. He is a gift to actors and here they are subjected to a documentary style that for the first few minutes made me fear the worst but that at the end of the day it works brilliantly. Jenny Lumet's terrific scrip feels amazingly personal (wasn't her father, Sidney Lumet, once Lena Horne's son in law?)The characters are too vivid to be the figment of someone's imagination or is Demnme's documentary style that makes it appear that way?. I don't know and quite frankly I don't care. I went where the characters took me, Anne Hathaway and Rosemary DeWitt are terrific but it is Debra Winger's distant mother that will make me want to see this film again. I don't know how explain it. She's on the screen for a few minutes but her presence is extraordinary. Even when she's part of the crowd you can't take your eyes off her. Go see it/her
The kind of movie that gives films about family dysfunction a good
Anne Hathaway plays Kym, troubled younger sister to Rachel, who's (as the title suggests) getting married. Kym gets a leave of absence from rehab in order to attend Rachel's nuptials. Once she's back home, old sores open up, sisterly resentment boils over, and the accusations and tears fly, all while ineffectual dad (Bill Irwin) tries to play referee and emotionally distant mom (Debra Winger) remains auspiciously absent.
If this sounds like a slog to sit through, don't be scared off. Unlike the recent and absolutely atrocious "Margot at the Wedding," which this film reminded me of, "Rachel Getting Married" is full of flawed but deeply sympathetic characters who I for one cared tremendously about. Anne Hathaway gives the kind of performance that will convince people she's more than just a pretty face, while she's met every step of the way by the less well known Rosemarie Dewitt, who plays Rachel. In a movie like this, it's crucial that the audience understands the back story that led the characters to their current dynamic, and it's a minor miracle that "Rachel Getting Married" does that without the use of flashbacks, voice over or even extensive scenes of plot exposition. Much of the story is told through nuance, in slight expressions or gestures, and the cast is uniformly fierce, every single member creating complex, flesh-and-blood people that aren't easy to instantly categorize. The film is an acting tour de force in every sense of the word.
Hathaway and Dewitt get the most opportunities to shine, but Irwin and Winger do wonders in their smaller roles as the parents. Winger, in particular, is devastating.
My only complaint is a big one -- an edict must be passed in Hollywood banning directors from filming entire movies with hand-held cameras. The trend is cliché and over. No, it does not add "realism" to a film. It merely distracts from all of the other elements that are good enough to stand on their own without the gimmickry. The cinematography was much less obtrusive in this film than in some others I can name, but it still served as a liability, not an asset.
Greetings again from the darkness. After the first 5 minutes, I hated
Anne Hathaway's character and I was sea-sick from director Jonathan
Demme's hand-held camera work. And then two hours later I felt like I
had just attended a family wedding! I got fully sucked in by Jenny
Lumet's (daughter of Sidney, the master) riveting story of a family
ripped apart and trying desperately to hold on to what is left.
While Hathaway's Kym is getting all the pub, I found Rosemarie DeWitt's Rachel every bit as mesmerizing, though a bit less laser-tongue equipped. Their scenes together are mind-warping ... truly like watching footage of a train wreck over and over. They love and hate each other, all while being loved and hated by everyone else in the family. So much self-destructiveness that it makes one wonder why apparent sweet guy Sidney (played oddly by Tunde Adedimpbe of TV on the Radio) wants to have anything to do with this ghastly group.
Just to make sure you are absolutely uncomfortable, Lumet tosses in the rarely seen Debra Winger as Kym and Rachel's estranged mother, who has emotionally backed out of their life completely so as not to feel the guilt she deserves for the death of the youngest sibling.
There is no way to watch this movie without numerous moments of being squeamish or uncomfortable. That is really the strength of the film ... it draws you into this world that you just don't want to be a part of.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Another reviewer mentioned that he walked out after the dishwasher scene.That was the exact same moment I shut the movie off and came to see what others were thinking of this total waste of film.Terrible movie. And I actually have good taste in movies.I like films that you have to use your head for.But this film doesn't qualify.It pretends to be that kind of film,but it just doesn't go anywhere.I mean how entertaining is it to watch two people loading a dishwasher.Come on!Crap!Maybe something happens later.But I just could not watch another moment.If that is what a movie does,then said film is a failure,in my opinion.If I could give it Zero,I would.
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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