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Rachael Getting Married (2009) Director Jonathan Demme 5 February 2009

Posted by jordanfarley in Uncategorized.
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Rachael Getting Married is a film that’s not going to appeal to everyone. By putting Anne Hathaway in a movie about marriage you immediately alienate half of your male audience (see also this months reportedly terrible Bride Wars), however Rachael Getting Married is a surprisingly accomplished film for an actress at such an early stage in her career and an undeniably powerful experience for viewers.

Hathaway plays Kym who at the start of the film is released from rehab to attend the wedding of her sister Rachael (Rosemarie DeWitt). Kym is clearly the black sheep of the family and it seems that every conversation she enters into breaks down into an argument, whether it be with her sister who fears Rachaels narcissism will spoil her big day or her father who is more caring and concerned about his daughter than Rachael could possibly hope for, though she only sees it as constant monitoring. There is a history behind the reasons behind Kym entering rehab which is key to the dramatic revelations of the film so I won’t go into them here but it is a sob story which I’m sure I’ve heard in another film somewhere before, but that’s not the point, it’s how these characters cope with facing the demons which they have never fully reconciled which is so affecting.

Hathaway is amazing as Kym. Although I had seen her do serious well in the past (Brokeback Mountain) I wasn’t expecting her performance here to live up to the Oscar nomination. Boy was I wrong. She shows more range in the opening 15 minutes than Winslet does throughout the whole of The Reader (though not as much as Winslet’s performance in Revolutionary Road), starting out as the tough girl, unprepared to listen to those around her, ignoring their heartfelt intentions to help her and perfectly playing the spoilt brat who is upset by the fact that her sister’s wedding is taking the spotlight away from her. Some moments are a little in your face (such as at the rehearsal dinner where Kym’s dislike of her sister’s best friend Emma is shown by pointlessly long shots of her morose face) but there are uncountable moments of pure acting genius such as the confrontation between a distraught Kym and her mother (Debra Winger), and the subsequent breakdown.

The rest of the cast are also very accomplished, there’s not really a duff performance among them (Rosemarie DeWitt and Bill Irwin as the father are particularly good), and although there are a few stilted moments you can almost dismiss them because of the way Demme has chosen to shoot the film. He employs a handheld documentary style which gives the film a well shot home video feel, almost like there should be some people who mess up what they are trying to say or do strange things purely because of circumstance.

My few complaints with the film are that it can feel a little melodramatic at times and certain plot points are left deliberately vague and open ended, no doubt to increase the feel that we are merely observers in this snapshot of a complex life story, but it often serves to confuse rather than intrigue. There are also a number of plot developments which rely on coincidence rather than logical progression which annoy rather than have the impact they are supposed to. The wedding itself is also a very heavy handed multi-cultural affair. It’s obvious the film-makers were trying to make a point by having a mixed race marriage seem perfectly normal (the issue of race is never raised once) but the overlong rehearsal performances of various different cultural dances and music and their performances again at the wedding (which must take up a good 20-30 minutes in total) just annoy rather than impress. These scenes could have easily been cut while still making the same point.

Demme has spent several years in the film making wilderness since his startling success with Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia, with a few documentaries and two pretty average remakes of Charade (The Truth About Charlie) and The Manchurian Candidate to his name, but with Rachael Getting Married he is back on his A-game. Undeniably powerful, albeit a little bit heavy handed at times, and with one of the best female lead performances this year, the film is a must see.

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