Rachel Getting Married Review


“Rachel Getting Married” is a marvel of modern cinema. Perhaps more than any other film I’ve seen, this one draws you to its characters and makes you feel like part of the family. And while this isn’t necessarily a family you want to join, it’s astounding how much director Jonathan Demme makes you care about these characters, many of whom are not likable individuals. Throw in a handful of extraordinary performance–especially from Anne Hathaway–and you’ve got one of the best films of the past decade.

Kym (Hathaway) is about to be unleashed onto the world after another stint in rehab, but only for the weekend so she can attend her sister, Rachel’s (Rosemary DeWitt), wedding. Kym has a lot of issues. She’s incredibly self-absorbed and thinks everyone should pay her constant attention, yet her father (Bill Irwin) actually does this, and Kym shuns him as being too protective. We don’t know the source of Kym’s addiction, nor her emotional problems (although it gets revealed slowly over the course of the film), but it’s pretty clear she’s going to make this wedding much more complicated than it needs to be.

The film focuses on Kym and takes the necessary time to develop her. She’s a heartbreaking character—someone who you want to get better without knowing if that’s even possible—while still being pretty unlikable. Her selfishness is astonishing. In one scene, she’s having it out with her sister, and when Rachel announces that she’s pregnant, everyone rejoices but Kym, who responds indignantly that a declaration like this is unfair in the middle of an unrelated argument. She also hijacks Rachel’s reception dinner with a toast that’s all about her gaining the forgiveness of those at the table rather than congratulating her sister and her fiancé on their pending nuptials. Rachel, an aspiring psychologist, sees Kym’s problem and repeatedly breaks it down for her. But Kym comes back with the same response: None of you know what it’s like to be a junkie. Perhaps she’s right. One of the beautiful things about the film is that everyone is flawed in that respect. You never get the sense that one of the characters is completely right, while another is completely wrong. Shades of gray are present in every interaction.

For all the emotional confrontations, arguments, and confessions, the film ultimately brings us back to Rachel and her wedding. By this point, you really feel attached to these people, for better or worse. It’s a lovely affair. Demme doesn’t take any shortcuts, and the wedding is as eccentric as one would expect from people like this.

The acting is really astonishing. Anne Hathaway is a revelation. She doesn’t hide anything, owns the film and earns her Oscar nomination. There’s a scene in which she confronts her mother (Debra Winger—also excellent). It’s one of the most brutally emotional scenes I’ve ever seen.

The Oscar nominations ended with Hathaway, which is a shame, because if it was up to me, I would have recognized DeWitt, Irwin, and Winger with nominations as well. DeWitt is glowing as the bride-to-be. She wants to take care of her sister, but she still has a hard time forgiving her for what she has done. Those two sides compete with each other throughout the film, until the end, when everything is put aside for Rachel’s lovely wedding. Irwin has the most one-dimensional role, but he still gives a terrific performance and makes you feel quite sorry for him: the relative who cares the most and always ends up the most hurt. Winger plays a mother completely detached and somewhat uninterested in her children, but when Kym asks her about it, we see she has just bottled up all of her emotion.

The camerawork is great and helps rope us into the story. Demme uses handheld cameras to make many scenes feel like home videos, and the movement prevents us from feeling like detached observers. The music helps in this way as well. Most of the film is scored by actual musicians who are part of the weeding.

I can’t say enough great things about this film. I loved it the first time I saw it, and it gets better every time I revisit it. From the marvelous acting to the way Demme draws us in, few movies make me feel as emotional as this one does, which is what makes it one of the best films of the past decade.

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