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Rachel Getting Married
5 reviews

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Movie Details

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Directed By
Jonathan Demme

Written By:
Jenny Lumet

Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Mather Zickel, Bill Irwin, Anna Deavere Smith, Debra Winger, Jerome LePage, Beau Sia, Dorian Missick, Carol Jean Lewis, Paul Lazar, Fab 5 Freddy, Robert W. Castle, Elizabeth Hayes, Roslyn Ruff, Sebastian Stan, Andre B. Blake, Joe Toutebon, Annaleigh Ashford, Van Hughes, Tamyra Gray, Robert Merrill, Paul Sparks, Michelle Federer, Darrell Larson, Joey Perillo, Marin Ireland, Edie Hofstatter, Jim Roche, Richard Shankman, Maria Dizzia, Dequina Moore, Anisa George, Kyrah Julian, Herreast Harrison, Gonzales Joseph, Donald Harrison Jr., Johnny Farraj, Amir El Saffar, Jimmy Joe Roche, Christy Pusz, Molly Hickok, Josephine Demme, Jose Mauricio De Faria, Lisette Santiago De Faria, Marcus Santos, Mel Jones, Dequina Moore, Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Matt Stadelmann, Alix Derrick, Victoria Haynes, Matt Rabinowitz, Anita Sarko, Tunde Adebimpe, Tareq Abboushi, Gaida Hinnawi, Dimitrios Mikelis, Cyro Baptista

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Rachel Getting Married (2008)
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Movie Review by Ben
October 28th, 2008

"Rachel Getting Married" is a movie about forgiveness, and the rough road people travel to get to it. It is also a movie about family and togetherness, and the joy of life. It almost moved me to tears the same way "Lars and the Real Girl" did a year ago as it deals with the saddest of things while surrounding itself in an atmosphere of love and much needed togetherness. This is one of Jonathan Demme's best movies, and it is one of the very best movies that I have seen so far in 2008. I really loved this movie and found myself wanting to hug many of its characters. It is a movie of raw emotions, and I love seeing movies with that kind of power every once in a while.

Anne Hathaway gives a phenomenal performance here as Kym, the wild child of a Connecticut family who has just gotten out of rehab for the umpteenth time, and is headed off back home to attend the wedding of her sister Rachel. It doesn't take long to get an idea of how much of a "bad egg" she seems like to just about everyone around her. As she goes into a convenience store to get a Pepsi, the female cashier behind the counter says:

"Didn't I see you on 'Cops?' "

Kym is a full blown drug addict and has been for many years, so while her family is happy to see her again, there are also some deep buried emotions that are just simmering below the surface just waiting to come out into the open. We feel that tension from the very start of the movie, and it is illustrated in Anne Hathaway's face as we see her feeling like the odd man out at a party. While everyone is happy for the bride and groom, she is sullen and lost in a moment she cannot escape from. As the movie goes on, we come to see the reason for her self-destructive behavior and why she acts the way she does. I will not mention what that reason is in this review, as it might take away from the emotional impact you will get from watching this movie.

This movie feels a lot different from many other movies that Jonathan Demme has made in the last few years. He filmed the movie with high definition cameras to capture the movie on a more intimate level, and it feels like he really let the actors loose on the movie they were in. It is handheld camerawork going on here, so this will probably drive those who couldn't stand all the shaky camerawork in movies like "The Bourne Ultimatum" or "Cloverfield" among others. While some people may experience motion sickness from this (better take some medicine before going to the theater), I had no problem with it. I felt it helped illustrate the emotionally fragile ground all the characters are walking over, and how easily it could come tumbling down.

What makes Demme's direction so great in this movie is how he makes us feel like we really are attending the wedding with these characters and sharing in the joys and sorrows of everyone involved. These families feel so real, and it is so great to see no Hollywood artifice on display here. There have been so many big Hollywood movies dealing with families and marriage, and I find myself increasingly avoiding them. But the actions in these movies never for once felt staged, and I loved that. Everyone in this movie feels like people we know from our own lives, and it connects us all the more strongly to what they go through.

"Rachel Getting Married" also, like all of Demme's movies, has a very eclectic mix of music in it from offbeat to music from other countries. As a result, his movies don't just have his own signature look, but their own significant sound. One character makes beautiful use of a Neil Young song as he sings it to another person. The audience I saw this with at Landmark Theaters in west Los Angeles was as silent as were the characters when that song was sang.

I also loved how the soon to be married couple is an interracial couple, and no one ever brings that up at all. I guess none of the characters see it as an issue worth discussing. Hallelujah!

The script was by Jenny Lumet, and yes, she is Sidney Lumet's daughter, but let's put that to the side for now. She gives her characters a vibrancy that elevates it from the kind of couple we can usually expect to see in these movies. Like I said, all the characters here feel very real, and that is in large part thanks to Lumet's script which treads familiar scenarios and storylines of the addict trying to go straight, yet finds its own voice and way of saying things.

Demme always seems to bring out in all the actors he has ever worked with in his long career. There are many great performances to be had here, not just Anne Hathaway's. Rosemarie DeWitt plays Rachel, and she is a wonderful and real presence to be had in this movie. She goes from being so happy to seeing her sister Kym to being utterly exasperated and strung out that she is at home. It is clear that Rachel wants Kym to be well, but she worries that she will ruin the wedding in one way or another. Both Anne and Rosemarie work really well off of each other as two sisters desperate to connect with one another despite the emotional damage between the two of them. There's a touching moment where Kym comes back from a rough night, and Rachel washes her clean in the shower as if she is washing her sins down the drain.

But let's stop singling out individual performances for now. This movie is not just a triumph of acting, but of writing and direction. All three elements come together to create a powerfully moving film about the flawed and fragile nature of humanity, and of the struggle for forgiveness. The movie has a very improvisatory feel to it, and despite the serious nature of the film, you cannot help but feel that everyone had such a great time being in it. You feel like you are with these families every step of the way, and you revel in their celebration of the families coming together as one. The reception near the end of the movie is one of ecstatic joy and happiness, even while some have wounds that take away from the event a little.

But the person who carries this movie from beginning to end is Anne Hathaway. Many see this as her escape from those "Princess Diaries" movies and to rid herself of that ever so clean image we have of her. Truth be told, she has been doing that for a while already with movies like "Brokeback Mountain" and "Havoc" among others. All that Oscar talk she has been getting for her work in this movie is justified. Kym is not always a likable character, but Anne gives her a heart and soul and makes you care deeply about Kym all the way through. The moments where Anne does not say a word, her face does the acting and reveals a very uncomfortable soul trying to fit in to a place that was once her home. Anne does very brave and amazing work here, and she proves to be a dramatic force to be reckoned with.

"Rachel Getting Married" further shows how brilliant Jonathan Demme is in getting to the humanity of all the characters he observes. There is not one moment that is faked in this movie, and this movie never really falls victim to any sort of cliché that could tear a movie like this apart. This is another one of those movies that you don't watch as much as experience. The movie is both an uplifting and heartbreaking experience, and one of the very best films I have seen in 2008.

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