Rachel Getting MarriedDirected by Jonathan DemmeStarring Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Bill Irwin and Debra WingerRated R*8*
Goes well with: Margot at the Wedding, A Wedding, Muriel's Wedding
Weddings are tricky. They're expensive, time-consuming and utterly fraught with family and the intense emotions that come with everybody being absolutely strung out. The happiest day of your life is usually one of the most stressful. Wedding movies are tricky, too, because they take those emotional highs and lows and use them to build cathartic confrontations with friends and relatives amid all the festering issues that have long remained dormant.
Still, because they trade in heavy-duty emotions, wedding movies also offer up great roles and a sense of collective joy that's easy to envy. Case in point: Jonathan Demme's new movie, Rachel Getting Married, featuring a performance from Anne Hathaway that's so good that it'll surely be considered come Oscar time. She's Kym, acerbic and bitter, always ready with a caustic one-liner, who's given a reprieve from rehab to attend her sister's wedding and immediately makes the entire weekend all about her.
Kym really is a rebel without a pause—with handheld cameras and the bustle of lots of musically minded friends putting together an at-home wedding, Rachel Getting Married never takes a breath. It's like an emotional Cloverfield, but the giant monster destroying everything in its path is emotional baggage. Kym is mad and mean and selfish and toxic and very hard to sympathize with. But when you finally discover why she's so full of self-loathing, sympathizing with her is the least we can do.
It's all honest, if not perfect. The script, from Jenny Lumet (Sidney's daughter), gets self-conscious and pretentious at times, but the actors and the director are generally able to rise above it. And what is real is the way the emotional pain is portrayed, via interactions between both Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) and Kym and their mother Abby (welcome back, Debra Winger—we've missed you). She isn't a bad parent, necessarily, just detached and emotionally unavailable, and it's easy to see that both daughters have been conflicted about their relationship with her since they were girls.
In their other parent, Paul, Jonathan Demme has finally taken a gamble someone should have taken long ago, by giving a meaty part to Bill Irwin. This guy should be a national treasure. Irwin, who made his name performing as a clown and has been so well-regarded that he's been awarded MacArthur, Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, has always created interesting work—on stage. But he's never truly found his niche in film, shunted into supporting roles that don't suit him. Here, there is no clowning. Instead, he's just a man working on his second marriage (to another big talent, Anna Deavere Smith) and trying to keep his feuding daughters happy and safe.
Tunde Adebimpe of the band TV on the Radio sports an enormous pair of glasses as Rachel's beau, and Mather Zickel is interesting and appealing as his best man, but even though she's just a bridesmaid (maid-of-honor, actually, after she throws a tantrum), this day belongs to Anne Hathaway. Kym's behavior is painful and skeevy, and it's impossible not to feel embarrassed about the emotional train wreck she is to her family.
Demme hasn't made a fictional feature since the 2004 remake of The Manchurian Candidate, and with Rachel he seems to be returning to the sort of personal work he made early in his career (pre-Silence of the Lambs). He really succeeds in the final act, the wedding itself, where there's little dialogue and a truly epic party filled with just the right kind of song and dance. When all is said and done, Rachel Getting Married is the sort of wedding you're glad you're not involved with but wish you'd received an invitation to nonetheless.