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Rachel Getting Married (2008)

April 12, 2010

7/10 Black Sheep

Never been a big endorser of eloping, but now I’m starting to get it. 

Rachel Getting Married is about a recovering drug addict who splits from rehab for the weekend to go to her estranged sister’s wedding. Due to her combative personality, troubled past and incessant need to “make amends”, it ends up being a damn long weekend filled with tons of family drama as old wounds come back to the surface while everyone does their best to make the wedding go off without a hitch.

Another great reason to have an open bar. 

So this is the latest effort by director Jonathan Demme, and for all intents and purposes, Jonathan Demme is the man. The guy’s done a crap load of outstanding movies over the years – all of which I really need to get around to reviewing – and the funny thing about Rachel Getting Married is that it looks nothing like a Jonathan Demme movie.

When I think Demme, I think of shots like this with stationary cameras and the characters looking right at the audience while talking to the person right in front of them. That kinda thing has been his m.o. for centuries now, and it’s an m.o. I happen to totally dig, but that noise is gone here.

Rachel, on the other hand, is filmed with shaky handheld cameras, no one in the cast is looking at the audience and even though it’s new, it works. If you’re telling a good story, it always works. The best explanation I can give is that this new direction makes you feel like you’re in the wedding party instead of just an outsider looking in. There’s a number of lengthy scenes during the rehearsal dinner and the actual wedding that don’t move the plot along but rather just show everyone coming together for Rachel getting married and it’s these little touches that not only add to this sense of audience involvement but also serves as a great respite from the relentless family drama.

And, sweet sassy molassy, is there a lot of drama. 

More or less, each new scene is Kym yelling at her sister, Kym generally raising hell or Kym reminding everyone that she used to be a junkie, you know, in case they forgot. The bad news is that it gets to be a little much and some of the scenes where she gets up on a soap box and doesn’t know when to get down are so painfully awkward to watch that I literally could not look at the screen it was making my skin crawl so badly. The good news is that Kym is a very complex character who gets more interesting the more we learn about her and the more she develops. So the good ends up outweighing the bad as the movie goes on, which is nice.

But for all the kicking and screaming, the most powerful parts of the whole movie come when everyone just shuts up. Whether it’s a silent pat on the back from one in-law to another or listening to a Rachel’s husband sing “Unknown Legend” by Neil Young as his wedding vows, it never ceases to amaze me how much you can say with the quietest of gestures or without saying anything at all. Inside voices, everybody. Calm the eff down.

The acting is also quite solid on everyone’s behalf. Ann Hathaway seems like a strange fit as Kym at first (or maybe that’s because Kym is written to be so strange at first) but she really comes into the role the more we get to know her. Good stuff. Bill Irwin also plays a great dad and I love that Tunde Adebimpe (the lead singer of the awesome TV on the Radio) was cast as Rachel’s husband. Even more bonus points for giving a cameo to Fab Five Freddy.

And Rachel really has one totally awesome wedding, one that I totally couldn’t pull off.

Rachel Getting Married can be a bit much at times, but it’s never melodramatic and has enough moments of subtle power to balance out all the totally in-your-face verbal bashings amongst this wildly and believably dysfunctional family. Whaddaya expect, folks? It’s Jonathan-freakin’-Demme.

Here’s to hoping my wedding goes a little smoother.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. April 12, 2010 8:32 am

    didnt know the guy from TV On The Radio was in this. sweet band

    • April 12, 2010 8:41 am

      Very sweet band, very cool casting choice. He even gets to sing a Neil Young song, so that’s even cooler. Good stuff.

  2. April 12, 2010 9:35 am

    I liked this film a lot but I disagree about the handheld. I didn’t make me feel like I was there, it just felt loose and shaky and didn’t work for me. It’s interesting that you point out that it’s a departure from his usual style. Maybe I would have liked it more if he used his other style.

    And I actually liked the awkward moments. They were hard to watch, but I think they fit the character well.

    The film was a good chance to see Anne Hathaway in a film where I wouldn’t be accused of being a preteen girl. I hope she does more stuff like this because she’s a fantastic actress, she just needs to stay away from those Disney movies.

  3. April 12, 2010 12:16 pm

    I loved the movie up until the Debra Winger-Anne Hathaway fight. Then, it moved like molasses – particularly the wedding, which felt like an entire movie in itself.

    • April 12, 2010 12:19 pm

      Oh, I liked the wedding. Liked how it was such a musical family. But yeah, that Debra Winger fight was nutso.

      • April 12, 2010 5:07 pm

        I liked the wedding, but it was too freakin’ long. I could have gone without a lot of it.

  4. April 12, 2010 12:27 pm

    To me it looks like one of those movies that tries to pull on your emotions. I am not a huge fan of these types of movies but i might give this one a chance.

    • April 12, 2010 12:32 pm

      It’s funny, it’s a very emotional and dramatic movie, but I never felt manipulated by it or like it’s out to be tear-jerker. Definitely worth a look.

  5. April 13, 2010 11:11 am

    I enjoyed the movie myself. Like you said, it was very nice to see such good use of music in the movie to convey moods and feelings without dialogue. Hathaway gives a very performance but I feel Rosemarie DeWitt’s performance was completely overlooked.

  6. mcarteratthemovies permalink
    April 14, 2010 4:05 pm

    I liked “Rachel Getting Married” but do not understand all the hullabaloo over Anne Hathaway’s performance. My theory is that this is one of the few movies — like “Brokeback Mountain” — where she played a character with, I dunno, a personality. She can yell and be hateful and selfish and pile on the histrionics with the best of them, and that’s what the Academy cannot resist. I liked Bill Irwin much better.

  7. Branden permalink
    May 24, 2010 6:43 pm

    I enjoyed this film. It was my #3 film in my top ten of 2008. I wished that Rosemarie DeWitt would have been nominated for Oscar. Hathway had all of the buzz.

  8. mark permalink
    July 12, 2010 12:39 am

    are you joking? this movie was insufferable! It was truly truly awful; I couldn’t finish it. I walked out.

    the entire time i just kept thinking, who cares? Who cares about these people? what’s at stake? The perfect ending to it would have come about half way through in the form of a nuclear accident that killed everyone. i would’ve applauded.

    it was like an inside glimpse into the lives of people you can’t stand. It was torture. utter torture. a 10 minute toast? endless, pointless bickering? And the dish-washing scene was laughably contrived.

    i suppose people think this was a good movie because it “revealed something” or some tripe. But it didn’t. All it revealed is how tasteless most people are. And how pretentious

    This gets an F minus from me. It made The Last Air Bender look like movie of the year.

    • July 12, 2010 7:42 am

      well, you’re not the first one I’ve heard that from so I definitely can’t knock ya’ for it. that 10 minute toast was unwatchably awkward for me, but I liked that dish-washing scene. but hey, different strokes for different folks, ya know? thanks for visiting all the same, man!

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