Sunday, September 20, 2009

Review: Rachel Getting Married

Starring Anne Hathaway and Rosemarie DeWitt
Directed by Jonathan Demme

Speaking as a young, mid-twenty something male who still needs a camera and a solid editing job, I really can't give my experience to wedding videos. What I can imagine from these videos is a chronicle of two families becoming one in a day of complete bliss where all the troubles and headaches of the family seem to disappear. Unfortunately, this is the real world we live in and the daily stresses of life and family don't magically disappear the moment we cut the cake. When a wedding comes it, it's a time where a family is confronted with each others place and where they fit in it, if sadly sometimes at all. I know this can be a cynical point to take but in family, we have to deal with that every day. In last year's 2008 Oscar contender Rachel Getting Married, the film asks if a family can find forgiveness and communication over a horrible past and find a way for everyone to be happy. I'm not sure if the film ever gives us an answer to that question but it did give us one a pretty great film.


Rachel Getting Married is about Kym (Anne Hathaway), a woman just out of 10 years of rehab, who goes to her sister Rachel's (Rosemarie DeWitt) marriage. While the wedding is being planned for the weekend, Kym cant drive a car to her weekly drug addict meetings, has to stay at home with the family, and tries to reconnect with everyone in the house. Not to give too much away, she has a history that lead to a horrifying tragedy for the family and is lead to be the scapegoat. Now she has to come to terms with the family while battling for attention with her sister Rachel for the weekend.

I think the first thing that struck me about the film is the method of which it was shot. It's all done in what appears to be a documentary style with lots of handheld shots taken inside cars for the conversations and going around on the sidelines for the major scenes going on. There were a few awkward moments throughout the film in terms of camera angles and perspective until later on the movie breaks the forth wall and we see another cameraman with professional film equipment. I then realized what we're watching is a wedding video with everyone in the family part of it; Kym coming and gong from rehab, the tension they share, and the entire family dancing and celebrating serve the purpose of how it tries to hold the family together while still having all this tension and angst. While the characters in the film don't realize it, they are part of it. It's pretty effective cinematography that adds a really interesting context to the story.

The film is all about a lack of communication in a family I think everyone can relate to. I know people like Kym and Rachel who seem to fight for the families love and place. I know the parents who are trying to be the peace keepers of the family. Every family has a member who has made some mistakes in their life and the film is an examination of how a family deals with it, or at least tries to deal with it.

Part of the reason the film works as well as it does is that the direction Jonathan Demme took is to let all the actors approach each scene in a different way and allow a lot of improvisation for the different situations. Demme and his casting director Bernard Telsey obviously have a great eye for talent, everyone is fantastic in this movie. The smaller roles really fit in with the mode and add to the scenes but of course the real praise should be given to both Anne Hathaway and Rosemarie DeWitt for their just devastating performances. I've enjoyed Hathaway before with The Devil Wears Prada but this really is a career making role and DeWitt is a wonderful discovery for the years to come.


The only issue I have with the film is that it seems to have too much of an investment in the dancing scenes. I can see that music plays a character itself in the film; a constant reminder of Rachel's day competing with Kym, but it could have been cut down by a few minutes. I kept wanting to go back to the tension with Hathaway, DeWitt, and the family but we get so much partying throughout the film. I should also warn you that this can be a slow moving film at times and can alienate the audience but those scenes with the family really are very much worth it.

Other then that, this film is a great examination of mature sibling rivalry and a family dealing with the past. In the end, it does give hope that the family has a deeper understanding with one another but like the characters, we're never really certain of the fate these characters have. It leaves it to you to decide if the new family will find peace.

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