Film Reviews

Rachel Getting Married Jonathan Demme

Rating - 8/10

Anne Hathaway will probably get an Oscar nomination for Rachel Getting Married, as well she deserves notice for her raw perfomance.  Her depiction of Kym, Rachel's sister just sprung from rehab, may at times seem affected and full of tics, but that's just about how this character might behave.  Still only a few years after emerging from the repugnant Disney/Garry Marshall factory, this beauty here proves herself to be a stronger actor than expected, more fuckup ex-model than princess.

Jonathan Demme thanks Robert Altman in the closing credits, and his film here is indeed an intimate ensemble affair worthy of the late master.  Since The Silence of the Lambs, Demme has been mostly helming big-budget, often Academy-baiting studio films, better than average but nowhere as distinctive as his eccentric, unpredictable character films of the '80s.  For Rachel Getting Married, Demme goes back to a modest scale and adopts an unvarnished, handheld look influenced by Dogme '95 and other independent films of the last decade or two. 

Demme, in making such unglamorous decisions, rewards us by rediscovering the humane warmth that marked his best work.  For awhile, the focus is stays mostly on Kym, and as she transforms wedding preparations into broad melodrama with her at the center, it verges on being a more realistic, dramatic take on the kind of awkwardness comedies Ricky Gervais has specialized in on television.  As the film continues, however, the focus blossoms and characters deepen from stock types and window dressing to full people with lives beyond the film.  Demme and his screenwriter, Jenny Lumet (Sidney's daughter), acheive this not through pandering explanation but in accumulation of attentively observed details.

Even in a story laced with the ghosts of personal trauma and tragedy, Rachel Getting Married is an overwhelmingly loving, understanding movie.  All of the tension and confrontation is leavened by, and co-exists with, affection and celebration, humor and joy.  Demme has an ideal skill for getting the best of his cast in small, unshowy ways, and is just as likely to throw in musicians and art professors as, you know, actors.  The movie is full of music and color, the cast a handpicked eclectic selection without exploiting anybody for flat stereotyping or insincere diversity.  It is refreshing for a film to set a WASPy suburban New England family against a pancultural rainbow without reducing either to shallow cliche or making a big deal about it.  I guess that's kind of the point, and one Demme is uniquely talented at making.