Rachel Getting Married
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Bill Irwin, Debra Winger,Mather Zickel, Tunde Adebimpe, Anna Deavere Smith
Director: Jonathan Demme
Writer: Jenny Lumet
Anne Hathaway has long seemed like she was seeking a breakout role to burst out of matinee status and into the accepted upper echelons of the film world. Her role here as Kim is absolutely the one to take her there and shares much in common with Mickey Rourke’s turn in The Wrestler. Hathway’s desire to move into the elite early in her relatively storied career indicates a desire for acceptance and love, a perfect fit with the recovering drug-addict and self-destructively needy Kim.
The film follows the wedding of Rachel, played beautifully by Rosemarie DeWitt and sister of Kim, who finally seeks to have her day in the limelight of the family after a life lived in the shadow of the higher maintenance Kim. But Kim is coming home for the days around and on the wedding, attending meetings and screwing the best man while commanding all the attention of her broken but resilient father, again played with a sense of kindness that endears throughout by Bill Irwin.
Demme employs a handheld camera to place us within the fighting and barbed comments of the family and the tactic proves highly effective. The film has a great deal of momentum as it builds thematically, increasing the tension and uncomfortable nature of scenes constantly until a heart-stopping emotional release. Lumet’s script also reveals information cleverly, not holding back any grand reveals or any other forms of convolution, rather just allowing the basic drama of the events she had created to burn through.
Up until the actual wedding, this is very close to a perfect distillation of the discomfort felt by most when forced to spend time with family with all of the difficult history and unspoken annoyance and anger that goes along with that. But the wedding scene beats the momentum out of the film before a key scene between the daughters and the damaged mother, a welcome return for Debra Winger. The montage of band after band goes on for far too long and you end up being taken out of the film by the constant barrage of music. It’s understandable that Demme wanted to provide us with a real feeling of the wedding and maybe it was all a comment about the Connecticut attitude of the family, attempting to exhibit a love of alternative and world culture whilst residing in the hedge fund capital of the world. Maybe that’s the aim, but it just kills the excellent structure up to that point.
The acting is uniformly strong with both Hathaway and DeWitt moving more towards being exceptional. DeWitt’s role is the more difficult, having to play second fiddle to Hathaway’s Kim and constantly provide the teetering emotional foil, the family rock who continues to love her sister despite her actions in the past. Hathaway though is absolutely outstanding. Demme uses her features with great skill, her big eyes and big mouth both are used as signifiers of her desire for understanding and love. He uses Hathaway’s obvious beauty cleverly by juxtaposing this with both the ignorant and difficult language she uses, mostly for effect rather than any malice. It’s a perfect synergy of directorial and writing vision with breakthrough acting which will deservedly take Hathaway into the annuls of the best in her generation.
Without that annoying moment towards the end when the structure falls in on itself, this is a very good if emotionally jarring film and Demme’s best since Silence of the Lambs.