Jonathan Demme’s “Rachel Getting Married” (now on DVD) is an intimate indie-drama centered on one woman’s return to the real world following a stint in rehab. Known for directing the thrilling drama “The Silence of the Lambs” and the heartbreaking “Philadelphia,” Demme adds another terrific film to his impressive resume.
Anne Hathaway (Kym) has substance abuse problems, which stem back to her teenage years, and she is released from her latest stint in time for her sister Rachel’s (Rosemarie DeWitt) wedding.
Hathaway is compelling in her Oscar-nominated turn and utilizes the promise she first showed as a clumsy princess in Disney’s “The Princess Diaries.” Kym is self-centered, but manages to evoke sympathy from the audience, who feel for the young woman trying to find her way. The heart of the film is the sisterly bond between Kym and Rachel. Rachel is a fully realized character and DeWitt gives a textured and soulful performance as she juggles the final days of wedding preparation.
One high point of the film is Kym’s speech at the wedding rehearsal for Rachel. She gives an impassioned albeit somewhat drunken speech to Rachel and her fiancé Sidney (Tunde Adebimpe of the band TV on the Radio). At this moment, Hathaway begins to transition herself from Disney Princess to one of the finest actresses of her generation with her startlingly pitch-perfect delivery. While lasting a bit too long, the scene makes the audience feel as if they are a part of the family and sitting at the table (Demme deserves kudos for his choice to film with a hand-held camera, which is jarring, but gives the film a unique touch of brilliance.)
Bill Irwin and Debra Winger are wonderful as Kym and Rachel’s parents Paul and Abby. Abby is unattached and distant, especially toward Kym. The two share one commanding scene at the end of the film that is intense, brutal and emotionally draining. While, Winger has not been a present force in film since the ’90s, she deserves more notice from directors after her brief, but stirring performance here.
This is the first screenplay from Jenny Lumet (daughter of director Sidney). Lumet humanizes the characters and adds depth to them. The characters could all come off as stereotypical or shrill, but Lumet’s inspired dialogue allows even a performer like Winger to add complexion to Abby, who is in the film for less than 20 minutes. The screenplay is not perfect (there are some heavy-handed lines and scenes, especially regarding Kym and Rachel’s deceased younger brother). However, Lumet shows promise and that talent runs deep in her family.
While similar to Noah Baumbach’s “Margot at the Wedding” (released in 2007), “Rachel Getting Married” succeeds where “Margot” fails. Kym remains sympathetic despite her stubbornness whereas Margot (Nicole Kidman) is insufferable the entire film as she ruins her sister Pauline’s (Jennifer Jason Leigh) impending nuptials.
“Rachel Getting Married” may not be for everyone; however, it deserves a chance to be seen in an era where a film about a bumbling mall cop can make over $100 million at the box office.