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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 27.59%
Average: 6.9%
Pretty Bad: 6.9%
Total Crap: 3.45%

3 reviews, 11 user ratings

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Rachel Getting Married
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Demme throws a great party."
5 stars

Jonathan Demme has never really seemed comfortable making thrillers or mainstream Hollywood fare. He's at ease with mess, chaos, ensemble. He doesn't like to judge; he enjoys showing people in all their flawed and beautiful humanity. "Rachel Getting Married" is a return home for Demme, an excuse to hang out with smart, interesting people and hear music and laugh and cry and have a full experience.

If there's a villain here, it's whatever demon of need and pain is inside Kym (Anne Hathaway), who's been an addict since her teens and is getting out of rehab -- nine months clean -- to be in the wedding of her sister Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt). Hathaway stretches hard for this role, letting her face slacken or tighten with each offense to Kym's intelligence. The film, written by Jenny Lumet, suggests that it's doubly hard for people who live inside their heads -- distracted by ceaseless internal chatter -- to recover from addiction. Kym is quick-witted and has had every conceivable advantage (her family is clearly well-off), but that did nothing to stop her self-loathing spiral. Knowing she's throwing herself away only makes it worse, or perhaps more perversely pleasurable. Hathaway makes Kym an intimidatingly traumatized figure: Very little you could say to her would put her at rest.

The movie isn't called Kym Getting Out of Rehab, though (actually, its working title was the Linklater-esque Dancing with Shiva), and Demme refuses to let the proceedings settle into banal Lifetime territory. Vibrant life is everywhere you look in the frame; cinematographer Declan Quinn works the camera as if he were another guest at the wedding. Musicians on Demme's iPod, like Robyn Hitchcock (Storefront Hitchcock) and Sister Carol East (Something Wild), turn up to perform. People of various races and walks of life sit down together happily. The only notes of discord are between Kym and those who know her best -- her sister, her mostly affable dad (Bill Irwin), her busy mother (Debra Winger).

Rachel's groom-to-be, Sidney (Tunde Adebimpe), is sane and centered and warm; we see why he fulfills her needs. Even characters never named who barely have speaking parts add to the fabric of community, the large family gathering at Dad's spacious Connecticut house to celebrate in an inclusive Indian style. A past tragedy provides the thorny subtext, though, to the movie's credit, we don't hear about it in a melodramatic reveal at the end -- Demme and Lumet get it out of the way early, which seems an adult choice. Someone should be there on Rachel's wedding day but isn't. The old conflict animates old resentments and heartache, though not in neatly predictable ways. Rachel Getting Married respects the intractable bits of life and says that some things take a long, long time to get over, if indeed they can ever be gotten over. But it also says that you might as well live, be with people, try to be good to them.

It's a lovely movie, with abundant charm and no fear of suffering. Jonathan Demme has made many well-crafted -- sometimes brilliantly crafted -- concessions to Hollywood demands. But here he sits down at the table again, and just uncritically watches and listens to those around him, and invites us to join him.

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originally posted: 03/10/09 14:01:13
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/14/10 Samantha P Hathaway is great in this, real people with problems, very well done 5 stars
11/16/09 art HATHAWAY"S BATHTUB SCENE IS THE ONLY HIGHLIGHT,as far as i'm concerned! 3 stars
11/01/09 jcanthony As bored as I've been watching a movie in a long time. 2 stars
9/11/09 BTC An authentic, beautiful movie. Hathaway, DeWitt, and Winger are flawless. Heartbreaking. 5 stars
8/06/09 Simon Primary flaw is indeed dragged-on festivities; but the rest is refreshingly raw, human film 4 stars
3/18/09 jim loved the naturalistic chaos, like a real messy family 5 stars
3/16/09 g. incredibly annoying 1 stars
3/12/09 George (DUKE) overrated...Annes best crap....too long and boring 2 stars
3/12/09 Brandon Allin Decent movie. Nice review. 3 stars
12/03/08 jcjs33 film connaisseur's dream..perfect movie..genius choreographed scenes..real..great theater 5 stars
10/29/08 Sully Good music whine, music music music whine whine music whine music 4 stars
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  03-Oct-2008 (R)
  DVD: 10-Mar-2009


  DVD: 10-Mar-2009

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