Rachel Getting Married (Movie Review)

Movie Review
Rachel Getting Married
2008
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Bill Irwin, Debra Winger
Directed by: Jonathan Demme

There are few occasions where an actor or actress has such an amazing performance that they can single-handily save a film that seems to be devoid of balance or even a proper script. Anne Hathaway nearly does that in Jonathan Demme’s Rachel Getting Married. Hathaway’s role as a recovering-junkie thrown back into the wild world amid her sister’s wedding ceremony almost makes the movie watchable if it wasn’t for the parts of the movie in which she isn’t the focus feel like sludge.

Hathaway plays Kym; a complex woman who has been messed up a good part of her life. She was a teenage model with a penchant for whatever drugs she could get her hands on. During the movie, it is revealed that the source of her institutionalization is her struggles after she accidentally killed her little brother while high on pills. That event fractured her family as her parents divorced and remarried. Her sister, Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) is getting married to Sidney (Tunde Adebimpe) which not only brings her mother (Debra Winger) and father’s (Bill Irwin) new family together but also Sidney’s in a weird hegemonic balance of a very vanilla Connecticut family with a Jamaican family.

Kym is still a bit unstable and she is kept under the microscope by both her family and onlookers. Everywhere she goes, she’s recognized for either an appearance on the TV show Cops or for being the local dopehead. She finds some guidance through Kieran (Mather Zickel) who himself abused alcohol many years ago. She clashes several times with her sister, who feels that Kym is out to steal the spotlight from her wedding and thinks her father is overprotecting Kym by preventing her from feeling too much guilt for all her reckless activities.

Hathaway’s monologues are worth the price of admission alone. Her troubled history is delivered to the audience through her admissions and confessions during her support meetings. She plays someone who seems a bit too wound up and could explode at any minute (which happens from time to time). Her confrontational conversations with her sister and mother are so explosive at times that you can sense that her character is feeling several emotions during each episode: frustration over her troubles, sadness over what has happened, and relief that she is finally getting these feelings off of her chest. As a viewer, it is a bit satisfying to see her finally speak her mind even though she knows that no matter what she does, people will continue to talk down to her because of her previous stint in a rehab facility. It’s almost like a train wreck; it is fun to watch because of the explosiveness occurring onscreen while it is hard to watch because of all the pain the characters are suffering.

Even though the focus is Kym’s messy life, parts of the movie are a jumbled and not for the right reasons. The film is shot, according to Demme, like a home video so there are plenty of parts of the movie that suffer from “handycam jerk”. This style works great for movies like The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield because the viewer knows that one of the characters in the movie is holding the camera; it’s a functional part of the story. In Rachel Getting Married, there is no need for it as none of the characters is holding the camera, none of the characters acknowledge the camera once and the movie is not shot as a documentary. While the idea of making the film like a home video to give the viewing audience something to relate to, it feels like a bizarre choice of camera work. There are several occasions where the camera seems to drift off for no reason and then refocus on the action occurring on the screen. It feels that someone was asleep at the switch rather than adding a certain “style” to the film.

There are multiple scenes such as the extended dinner that seem to run forever and do not add anything to the film. Some of the scenes feel like they would have been added an extended version of a DVD release. There is at least twenty minutes that could have been snipped away from the film that would have not hurt the film in the least and may have even tightened up the film for the better. Another issue is that there are way too many characters in the movie that are not properly introduced but are given enough dialogue in the film to make one think that their introduction got lost in the shuffle (or during one of the films super-long club-dance scenes). The editing process seems unfinished.

Even though the camerawork and editing seem suspect and the story hangs when Anne Hathaway is not on screen, Rachel Getting Married is good enough purely on Hathaway’s performance alone. She is very deserving of her Golden Globe nomination for this role and will most likely receive an Oscar nomination for this part too. Clearly, I’m in the minority on the subject but the film is merely average and I don’t quite understand why critics are going nuts over it. Maybe they were lucky enough to be able to ignore the in-between parts. See it for Hathaway’s performance but ignore the rest. 

This post was originally published on this site on December 27, 2008. The original review is intact with some minor grammatical changes and film stills were added for this revision.

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Jamie Gore

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