- Rated R
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All photos © Sony Pictures Classics
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
onathan Demme’s “Rachel Getting Married” might just be the most frustrating movie of the year. After kicking around in the world of documentaries for a while, the director was poised for a comeback, and the fact that he was helming a movie based on a script by Jenny Lumet (daughter of Sidney) only seemed to sweeten the pot. And then there was the Oscar buzz surrounding star Anne Hathaway, an actress completely deserving of a movie star career who, until now, had yet to be given an adult role that really tested her talents. So where did it all go wrong? Quite frankly, in Demme's insistence that the film be so Altmanesque in its realism that he loses focus of the story that matters most.
Hathaway stars as Kym, a recovering drug addict who’s checked herself out of rehab for the weekend to attend her sister’s wedding in Connecticut. She’s hoping for a quiet visit, but instead, she comes home to find the house populated with overeager helpers and a four-piece wedding band that won’t stop playing. Her arrival puts everyone on edge, including her father Paul (Bill Irwin), stepmother Carol (Anna Deavere Smith), and the bride-to-be, Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt), who fears that Kym’s presence will ruin her special day. As it turns out, she’s right, and as Kym’s dramatic, self-destructive tendencies fuel a series of emotional breakdowns and arguments, the real reason behind their family’s dysfunctional relationship is revealed.
Unfortunately for the audience, Demme doesn’t seem very interested in that side of the tale, despite the fact that he has plenty of great characters to develop – including Kym and Rachel’s mother, played by Debra Winger. Instead, he decides to make an amateur wedding video where we’re forced to watch (no joke) 15 minutes of rehearsal dinner speeches and another ten minutes of dancing at the reception. There are characters that you never even see again that give speeches, while the inclusion of the dancing sequence appears to be there for the sole reason of highlighting the musical talents of Demme's friends, like Robyn Hitchcock, Sister Carol East, and TV on the Radio's Tunde Adebimpe, who plays Rachel's fiancé.
It just doesn’t make sense, especially when nothing is resolved by the end of the film. Some might argue that it’s an accurate depiction of real life, but that doesn’t make it any more engaging. Sure, there are a few great scenes where Hathaway and DeWitt get to flex their dramatic acting muscle, but a majority of the film is dull. Case in point: a scene where Irwin and Adebimpe take part in – wait for it – a dishwasher loading contest. The whole point of the scene is to single out a particular plate that’s connected to a family tragedy, but it hardly seems necessary to include when it’s mentioned several times throughout the course of the story.
It's stuff like this that ultimately makes "Rachel Getting Married" such a frustrating moviegoing experience. While the groundwork that's laid early on is ripe with potential, Demme is too caught up capturing the smaller, more natural moments to even notice. It's like watching Noah Baumbach's 2007 drama, "Margot at the Wedding," but instead of wanting to punch Nicole Kidman's character in the face before returning to the festivities, this time you'll wish you'd never even come.
Single-Disc DVD Review:
It may have more special features than the typical indie, but the single-disc release of “Rachel Getting Married” is just as dull as the movie itself. The two audio commentaries (one with producer Neda Armian, writer Jenny Lumet and editor Tim Squyres, and the other with actress Rosemarie DeWitt) aren’t very interesting, while the deleted scenes don’t add anything to the story. Also included is a behind-the-scenes featurette that’s essentially just a series of interviews with the cast and crew, a Q&A that was recorded at the Jacob Burns Film Center, and a short featurette on the various musicians that appear in the film (“The Wedding Band”).