Sunday, November 23, 2008

'Rachel Getting Married' is an engaging event

*** out of ****

Anyone who has been to a wedding knows the endless preparation it takes before the bride and groom say their, “I do’s.” While wedding films are hardly original anymore, Rachel Getting Married is a refreshing, and most importantly – an intimate, look at the emotions before, during and after the nuptials. Walking down the aisle with grace, Rachel gets a bit disjointed along its rocky path.

As the title implies, Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) is getting married, but that is hardly the big event. Kym (Anne Hathaway), Rachel’s sister, is back from rehab to attend the wedding and can’t help but put the spotlight on herself.

Ready to see her family, halfheartedly making amends as a part of her 12-step program, Kym seems oblivious to the toll she has made on her relatives after multiple trips to rehab facilities. Temperamental, pessimistic, narcissistic and just plain unpleasant, Kym is not easy to like. Rachel who is sensible and forgiving to Kym is reluctant about her being the Maid-of-Honor and even more nervous what could happen if she isn’t.

Carrying a burden of a dark family secret, Kym, Rachel and their divorced mother Abby (Debra Winger) and father Paul (Bill Irwin) are about to face the harsh reality of their dysfunctional lives together. Arguing, bonding and accepting, Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs) directs a gripping and binding film.

Jonathan Demme provides more intimacy to the event by filming with a handheld camera. Those scared off by this queasy camera technique should find comfort in the fact that Demme has a sturdy hand throughout the process.

The editing is done nicely, but Demme goes overboard with the toasts and wedding band montages. By the fifth toast and second dance you wonder when will they cut the cake.

Rachel Getting Married is Jenny Lumet’s (daughter of Sidney which is also the name of the groom subtlety played by Tunde Adebimpe) first screenplay. Jenny writes powerful conversation scenes that are excellently played out by the cast.

Rachel is one of those films where the performances outpace the movie itself, with outstanding acting by Anne Hathaway (Get Smart, The Devil Wears Prada), Rosemarie DeWitt (Mad Men) and Debra Winger (Terms of Endearment, An Officer and a Gentleman.)

Hathaway gives the best performance of her career as Kym. Between being steely and emotional, Anne makes Kym endearing, even though you wouldn’t want to be in the same room as her, much less a wedding.

Overshadowed by Hathaway, but nonetheless brilliant are DeWitt and Winger. Trying to be accommodating, DeWitt is not afraid to be contentious, not willing to sacrifice her big day for Kym. Debra Winger makes a welcome trip back to the big screen as the bickering girls’ passive but loving mother. Winger does have a shinning moment during a confrontation with Kym that could possibly earn both actresses Oscar gold.

Rachel Getting Married’s greatest achievement is breaking the banal dysfunctional family-wedding genre. This marriage will have a long reception with its audience.

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