Review: Rachel Getting Married (2008)

Weddings are supposed to be joyous occasions. But weddings are also the times when a family’s past can come back to haunt them. Rachel Getting Married, directed by Jonathan Demme and written by Jenny Lumet, follows a wedding that is festive and celebratory but also painstakingly heartbreaking.

The films focuses on the complicated relationship between sisters Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) and Kym (Anne Hathaway). After nine months in rehab, Kym has come home for her sister’s wedding and her presence ensures that the past will more present than ever. Bill Irwin, Anne Deavere Smith, and Debra Winger play prominent supporting roles.

Hathaway is playing against type as a tormented drug-addict and she delivers a fine performance that screams Oscar worthy. Yet it is DeWitt’s subtle performance as the long-suffering Rachel that truely shines. There is a complexity to the character of Rachel that is not seen in Kym. Rachel’s feelings, emotion and past are revealed more through simple gestures than Kym’s verbal revelations. Rachel Getting Married might be a vehicle for Hathaway to prove herself as something more than a Disney princess but it is a star-making role for DeWitt.

Using mostly handheld camera shots and naturalistic techniques, Demme captures the essence of a family struggling to come to terms with the past as they start a new beginning. At times Rachel Getting Married reads more like a documentary than a narrative. Yet for the viewer, there is an odd ghostly presence to the film; you find yourself peering in on this family’s past and discovering their secrets.

This is Demme’s best film since The Silence of the Lambs. The performances of Hathaway and DeWitt and the stellar script by Lumet make Rachel Getting Married a film not to be missed.

Updated November 24, 2010

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