Rachel Getting Married

Director    Jonathan Demme
Starring    Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Mather Zickel, Bill Irwin, Tunde Adebimpe
Release    3 OCT (US) 23 JAN (UK)    Certificate 15
4 stars


29th January 2009

Anyone who has recently been stung by the nasty little wasp that was Bride Wars may approach another Hathaway wedding flick with understandable caution. Fear not, because Rachel Getting Married is poles apart from that hollow bitch-a-thon and demonstrates what Anne Hathaway is capable of when presented with a decent and challenging role.

Hathaway plays Kym, a recovering drug and alcohol addict out of rehab for a couple of days to attend the wedding of her sister Rachel (DeWitt). The family are a bunch of wealthy intellectuals with bohemian leanings. They are dysfunctional and able to analyse their shortcomings and problems in painful detail, reminiscent of the family depicted in The Squid and the Whale. You get the impression Kym turned to narcotics as a way of muffling her own thoughts. Kym is the black sheep - selfish, fragile and nihilistic, while Rachel is composed, mature and generous. Unsurprisingly, old sibling tensions and upsetting memories are revisited while their father Paul (a brilliant Bill Irwin) tries to keep the peace.

Having previously directed The Manchurian Candidate, Philadelphia and The Silence of the Lambs, Jonathan Demme is no stranger to heavyweight drama, but he takes a different approach with Rachel Getting Married. The film is shot fly-on-the-wall style, creating a sensation of both realism and voyeurism. It makes no concessions to the audience; we are treated as a guest, sitting through speeches and rehearsals and getting caught up in the tumultuous preparations at the family home.

Music is key in Rachel Getting Married. Rachel's fiancÚ Sidney (Tunde Adebimpe) is a musician, so consequently the film is littered with Sidney's musician friends playing in every conceivable corner of the house while the drama unfolds around them. This of course provides the film with an excellent soundtrack and works beautifully. The wedding itself is typical boho chic, right on, middle class tosh - the bride and bridesmaids wear saris while the guests dance the night away to an array of 'world music'. It is impossible to know for sure whether Demme is being subtly satirical or nauseatingly earnest. Despite this, the wedding is surprisingly moving and heartfelt thanks to the touching script by Jenny Lumet (daughter of Sidney).

Anne Hathaway is extremely likeable and has that rare quality of being popular with both men and women. The light and energy she brings to the screen has carried otherwise lacklustre films such as The Princess Diaries and Becoming Jane. It's refreshing, therefore, to see her play a character that is at times difficult to like (on hearing that her sister is pregnant, Kym's reaction is, "That's so unfair!"). It would have been easy for her to go overboard, but Hathaway's measured performance means that we always empathise with Kym, particularly when she is away from her family and confides in strangers at AA meetings.

So will Hathaway walk away with the Best Actress Oscar? Looking at the competition, Kate Winslet is too obvious, Angelina Jolie is too smug, Melissa Leo is too obscure and Meryl Streep hardly needs another one. This is Hathaway's year.

More:  Drama  Weddings  Oscars
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