Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Wedding of the Year

I saw Rachel Getting Married on Sunday, and instead of sitting through two hours of actors playing parts on the screen, I felt like I sat through a weekend at someone's intimate wedding celebration. This story seemed so personal and so intrusive that I forgot I was watching fiction. I felt embarrassed, angry, sad, and overjoyed for this family. I'm sure the hand-held cameras and the minimal lighting helped, but Rachel Getting Married is more introspective docudrama than scripted drama. That's what makes it so appealing.

Kym (Anne Hathaway) is a recovering addict. She is released from rehab to attend her older sister's wedding and spend a weekend with her family. Rachel (Rosemary Dewitt) is the responsible one, of course. She's getting her PhD in psychology, and she and the new husband have their shit together--so to speak. The parents are divorced and remarried. Rachel's dad Paul (Bill Irwin) is overprotective, and her mom Abby (Debra Winger) is basically non-existent. The weekend seems like it might be as stressful as any wedding--with the sister's instantly happy to see one another, but quickly everything spirals downhill, and the old family skeletons come hopping right out of the closet.

As I said before, Rachel Getting Married is more documentary than drama, and that's not just because of Jonathan Demme's style choice. A lot must be said about the spectacular cast. Anne Hathaway may be getting all the praise for her razor sharp performance, but the rest of the cast should not be overlooked. Everyone is on...and they never stop.

Rosemarie DeWitt plays Rachel as the perfect student psychologist. She clinically analyzes her family but justifies her own behavior due to wedding stress. She obviously loves her family, but quickly the strain of dealing with Kym gets to her. Hateful things are said, and for awhile, you think that she will cause the complete downfall of the family.

Bill Irwin, who very rarely has stand-out roles, shined very brightly as the patriarch of the family. He smiles and hugs and cooks and makes jokes, but you can always see an underlying sadness in his eyes. I'm always amazed when an actor can say so much without saying a word.

Debra Winger is spectacular is her small role as Rachel & Kym's mom. She is disconnected from the family group, but there are no doubts that she did it to herself. When the daughters try to bring her in, she's hestitant and standoffish. Her performance in her first scene at the rehearsal dinner instantly raised questions in my head--making me realize there were many skeletons this family has hiding.

Anne Hathaway, as a million and one critics have said, gives an amazing performance. It's not like I ever thought she wasn't a good actress. I just always saw her as more a light-hearted type with good comedic timing. In Rachel, the gloves are off, and she wears her emotions like a crown she can't rip off. Hathaway's performance, like Irwin's, plays a lot in her face. She may be spouting one thing, but her face reads something completely different, and that's something new for her. Her past characters have never needed to be so complex, and she pulls it off brilliantly.

Through laughter, yelling, tears, and even a couple of punches, I believed that these actors were family. There are so many intimate details that most movies don't show--when was the last time you saw someone shaving their pits or taking a urine test? It just doesn't happen, but it does in this movie.

There is no question that this film will not satisfy everyone. It's not all yelling and sadness, there are some overwhelmingly happy moments as well. But their are still people who like their family dramas to stay a little glossy and produced, not in-your-face stark and unabashed. I loved it. I think it's one of the best films I've seen this year, and it deserves every accolade I hope it gets as well as some I'm sure it won't.

1 comment:

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

Oh, I didn't even realize this was still at the theaters. Great review, I can't wait to see this!