Saturday, March 28, 2009

Rachel Getting Married: Grade A

Rachel Getting Married (2008)
Anne Hathaway, Debra Winger, Rosemarie DeWitt, Anisa George; Director Jonathan Demme.

Hathaway is Kym, the black sheep of the family who gets out of rehab to attend her sister Rachel’s wedding at the magnificently wealthy family home in Connecticut. Kym is intensely self-centered, immature, angry, and disruptive to all. Family members try to be nice to her but really would rather she disappeared and she knows that and lashes back to demand acceptance. All the scenes you expect of a dysfunctional family are played out as we pace through the fitting of the costumes, the wedding rehearsal, the big wedding, the cutting of the cake, the reception, and on and on. There is no plot, although some supposedly shocking family history is inevitably dredged up.

We are not buried under the banality of family muck because Hathaway’s acting is spellbinding. It is a performance equal or better than the one that got Penelope Cruz the Oscar this year. Hathaway is an amazing actor who dominates every scene she is in. Debra Winger also grabs your attention and won’t let go. Those two actors alone make the movie. But in addition, the sets are marvelous around that gorgeous, sprawling house maintained in tip-top condition, as only old money can afford. Then there is Demme’s excellent direction. Most of the camera work is hand-held so you feel you are watching a documentary, or even that you are a participant. That makes the family scenes familiar and compelling, especially when emotions are demonstrated rather than spoken about. Excellent writing gives the principal characters three dimensions and a good deal of wit. Some of the dialog is a little too witty, as if everyone were channeling Oscar Wilde, and most of the wedding scenes went on too long (the movie runs almost 2.5 hours). But overall it is a very satisfying family drama.

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