Hathaway Excels in a Fierce Drama About Coming Home and Faci
Ed Uyeshima | San Francisco, CA USA | 10/12/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Sitting through a movie about sibling rivalry at a wedding, especially one starring the doe-eyed and normally facile Anne Hathaway, sounds like a potentially painful way to spend an evening. However, as directed by Jonathan Demme and written by Jenny Lumet (daughter of master filmmaker Sidney Lumet), this 2008 drama is not a lightweight star vehicle à la Julia Roberts circa 1997 but a darkly realistic look at the dysfunction within a family thrown into disarray. Using an almost cinéma vérité style, Demme explores how a wedding reopens old wounds within a family in a naturalistic way made all the more palpable by the emotional acuity in Lumet's screenplay.
The focus is on Kym, a chain-smoking former model who has spent the last several months in rehab. As a substance abuser whose only armor is cutting sarcasm, she is absurdly hopeful that her sister Rachel's wedding will be a harbinger for unconditional love from her upscale Connecticut family. Therein lies the problem as her narcissism provides the catalyst for long-simmering tensions that uncork during the preparations for a lavish, Indian-themed wedding weekend (the movie's working title was "Dancing with Shiva"). It soon becomes clear that Kym's link to a past tragedy is at the core of the unpredictable dynamics that force confrontations and regrettable actions among the four principal family members. Rachel appears to be Kym's sensible opposite, but their alternately close and contentious relationship shows how they have not fully recovered from past resentments. Their remarried father Paul is a bundle of loving support to the point of unctuous for both his girls, while their absentee mother Abby is the exact opposite - guarded and emotionally isolated until she is forced to face both her accountability and anger in one shocking moment.
Anne Hathaway is nothing short of a revelation as Kym. Instead of playing the role against the grain of her screen persona, she really shows what would happen if one of her previous characters - say, Andy Sachs in The Devil Wears Prada - went another route entirely. The actress' studiousness and persistence are still very much in evidence, but the story allows her to use these traits under the guise of a self-destructive, often unlikable addict who gains attention through her outrageous self-absorption. As the put-upon title character, Rosemarie DeWitt realistically shows Rachel's sense of pain and resentment as the attention veers to Kym during plans for the most important day of her life. Bill Irwin is winning as the unapologetically grateful Paul, but it's really Debra Winger who steals her all-too-brief scenes by bringing the remote character of Abby to life. Now in her early fifties, the famously tempestuous actress seems to rein in her innate fieriness to play a woman who consciously disconnects herself from the family she raised. What remains is a crumbling façade of propriety masking this obvious gap. It's similar to Mary Tyler Moore's turn as the cold mother in Ordinary People, but casting the normally vibrant Winger (who probably would have played Kym a quarter century ago) is a masterstroke.
The film is not perfect. Demme's home-video approach, while novel at first, proves wearing over the 114-minute running time. Pacing is also a problem, especially when the focus turns to the minutiae of the wedding ceremony and reception. I wish Demme could have cut this part of the film, so we could get to the icy, unfinished resolution sooner. As a filmmaker who obviously enjoys making music concert films (Stop Making Sense, Neil Young - Heart of Gold), there are quite a few musical performances presented in total. However, for non-aficionados, it may prove too much over time. While it's refreshing to see interracial marriages treated so casually (Lumet's grandmother is legend Lena Horne), Demme makes almost too big a point in presenting a global community though the diverse music and the wedding's multi-cultural themes. The movie starts to feel like a Putumayo collection of third-world performances. Still, Demme's intentions can't be faulted, and neither can the piercing work of Hathaway and Winger."
Tedious examination of self-loving families at wedding canno
Scott Schiefelbein | Portland, Oregon United States | 06/25/2009
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Jonathan Demme ("Silence of the Lambs," "Something Wild," "Philadelphia") can make a darn good film. When I heard that he had "returned to basics" with this movie, which also featured a dramatic star turn by the ever-likeable Anne Hathaway ("The Devil Wears Prada"), I had to give it a shot.
What a mistake. "Rachel Getting Married" is the most tedious film I have seen since David Lynch's "Dune." these are two very different films that share one essential trait - I could not wait for either of them to end. But while "Dune" suffered through trying to adapt a mammoth, dense, incredibly popular sci-fi novel to cinematic form, "Rachel Getting Married" extends what should be a lark - a wedding! - into painful tedium.
The movie starts promisingly. Anne Hathaway plays Kym, who is picked up from rehab for a weekend furlough with the family. Her sister, Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt), is getting married at the family's posh Connecticut suburban home. The house quickly establishes Rachel's family as just falling short of Wealthy, but easily qualify as Extremely Comfortable.
The more people you meet in this movie, the more depressing it generally gets. Everyone invited to Rachel's wedding is so replete with satisfaction at the wonderfulness of themselves and everyone around them that you want to tear your hair out. Speeches at rehearsal dinners drag on interminably because everyone has Something Important to say. The wedding is a bizarrely multi-cultural affair. Rachel's fiance, Sidney (Tunde Adebimpe) is an African-American musician - for no apparent reason other than to establish how amazing Rachel is. Their wedding, again for no apparent reason, is Indian-themed, with Indian-inspired wedding dresses and bridesmaid gowns, even down to an elephant on the wedding cake. Everyone plays a musical instrument or sings some type of ethnic song. An elderly friend or uncle, resplendent in his Texas line-dancing wear, uses the rehearsal-dinner toast of drunken uncles everywhere, "May the only ups and downs you have be in the bedroom."
Just when you think this wedding can't drag on any longer, a Carnivale band and dancers drop in from Rio for some more resplendent multiculturalism.
Only two things save this movie from the trashbin. The first is Kym's rehab process. Kym is damaged goods and is making only halting progress through the Twelve Steps. Anne Hathaway, normally associated with Shiny Happy People roles, gets gritty and understated with this performance. She plays an anti-heroine very well, always believable and both sympathetic and infuriating.
The other part of this movie that works is a subplot involving a not-so-distant family tragedy. This tragedy explains many of the scars Kym's family tries to ignore and features a near-movie stealing performance by Debra Winger as Kym's mother, who left her family behind. As a parent, all I can say is that this subplot was handled really, really well, pushing emotional buttons without being too heavy-handed.
But that is not enough to save this bloated film. No movie wedding should be this long or feature a family this self-righteous unless it is an outright satire. Roger Ebert, in his review, wishes that he could have attended a wedding like this. All I can say is, if I were invited to attend a wedding with Rachel's family, he can go in my place any day."
A painful 5 stars
Sambson | North Carolina | 05/12/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Well, I should introduce myself as a recovering addict (we never really stop recovering do we?), and from that I base my entire review. There is a moment in this film when Hathaway wonders if the band of gypsies on the porch can stop playing for just five minutes; and I couldn't agree more. Funny thing is, I know why Demme put that violin there; from her first scene in the house, to the dish-loading scene...it keeps the tension up. You see, this whole film is from the freshly rehabed addict's point of view, and that's no fun place to be; as watching this film will show. I've been clean for 6 years now, and was shocked to find there were times I could hardly sit through the film. Demme does an amazing job of using every element at his disposal to push the envelope of the viewer's willingness to stick with this story; just as the main character is being pushed inexorably and unwillingly ahead. The celebration scene with the never-ending musical parade gets louder and amps up the energy way past when most filmmakers would cut the scene; that's absolutely true. But for me it was because we (the audience) are supposed to be in Hathaway's head; and the whole experience is just dancing on her raw nerves. This film reminded me more of PERMANENT MIDNIGHT, REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, 28 DAYS or CLEAN AND SOBER than any other film with WEDDING in the title. But of those, only REQUIEM further explores every technique at the director's disposal to push the audience into the same shoes as the main characters. Every addict should see this one. Five stars for sure; a very painful five. (It is always a pleasure to watch Debra Winger do what she does in front of a camera.)"
John E. Derry | Kelowna, BC, Canada | 03/29/2009
(2 out of 5 stars)
"As an addiction professional, watching this movie wasn't entertaining...it was WORK! The setting was a weekend pass from an institutional long term drug rehab to attend a family wedding. The movie accurately depicts the hurt, pain, caretaking, misunderstanding, self centeredness, brokeness, and general dysfunction of the entire family system. The family carries past hurts and lives out their dramas in spades through the intensity of coming together for a family wedding. The addict in early recovery role of Anne Hathaway demonstrates the negative impact of family entanglement on recovery. She also role models many behaviors to be avoided in recovery, and how not to 'work the steps'.
Do not expect a light comedy. There is nothing funny about addiction and its insidious and systematic destruction of family. If you want a glimpse of how families are negatively impacted by addiction, it's informative. If you are working a program of recovery and you need a reminder of pitfalls to avoid, it's a good reminder. If you are in early recovery, make sure you talk with your sponsor. There is a lot to be learned, but be careful to not make the same mistakes.
John Derry, A Home Away Addiction Recovery Retreat