‘Rachel Getting Married’ Is Like a Wedding Video
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Years ago I used to have lunch in a little diner just off Mulberry Street near New York’s Little Italy, its walls festooned with posters paying homage to films by director Jonathan Demme, his nephew Ted, and Jim Jarmusch. These up-from-the-streets filmmakers often ate there when in the neighborhood. I’d sometimes see one or the other at the counter, chatting with the owners and waitresses about his latest movie.
Sitting there amid posters and memorabilia for “Silence of the Lambs,” “Philadelphia,” “Something Wild,” “Beautiful Girls,” and “Mystery Train,” I’d order a fat meatball sandwich and eavesdrop on their conversations. Mostly small talk about actors and studios and fans.
Jonathan Demme’s latest film – a slice-of-life drama called “Rachel Getting Married” – is currently playing at the Tropic Cinema.
‘Rachel Getting Married’ is not really about Rachel. It’s more about her sister Kym who comes home during the weekend of Rachel’s wedding. Kym is the Prodigal Daughter (to adjust the phrase) who’s been estranged from the family for years while wrestling with her own personal demons. Fresh out of rehab, she flits into the Connecticut household with the subtly of a tornado. Her return throws off the precarious balance of family dynamics with both heartbreaking and hilarious results.
At one point she sarcastically refers to herself as “Shiva the Destroyer.” It’s an apt metaphor.
No, Ann Hathaway isn’t a Disney princess in this movie, as she adroitly tries on the skin of self-destructive sister Kym. It’s been called “a breakthrough performance.”
Rosemarie DeWitt makes a great Rachel, exhibiting an understandable sense of resentment as her outrageous sister steals the spotlight from the impending nuptials.
Debra Winger is the film’s surprise casting, playing against type to give us a remote mother who is emotionally disconnected from her family.
With “Rachel Getting Married” Demme uses a home-video style that at first seems appropriate for this family drama – but after a while you long for the polished professionalism of a Hollywood cinematographer with a steadicam.
The script by Jenny Lumet displays insight into the relationships between sisters. Jenny is the daughter of acclaimed director Sidney Lumet. And as sister of sound editor Amy Lumet, she’s got some experience with this subject matter.
The film’s interracial marriage is hardly an eyebrow-raiser these days, audiences long past the “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” era. And it’s not a surprising plot element, considering that Lumet’s grandmother is legendary Lena Horne.
Demme has said he’d rather do documentaries than work with actors. An odd attitude for a guy who has directed seven Oscar-nominated performances – with four wins (Jodie Foster, Mary Steenburgen, Anthony Hopkins, and Tom Hanks).
In “Rachel Getting Married,” Hathaway, DeWitt, and Winger each give memorable performances. Although brief, Winger’s role is particularly mesmerizing.
This movie is like watching a home movie about a dysfunctional family. Being a wedding video, you know it’s a big occasion for everyone involved. However, sitting through “Rachel Getting Married” is vaguely uncomfortable, like watching family members fight in front of you.
[from Solares Hill]