Rachel Getting Married
There is a term that has become popular lately that is misleading; ‘dysfunctional family’. Let’s face it; none of us came from a fully functional family. Many of us grew up watching television series like ‘Ozzie and Harriet’ and ‘Father Knows Best’ but few of us could fully identify with the family dynamic shown there. The major fault of the family unit is its composition; human beings. As long as people ore imperfect the families will naturally exhibit some degree of what experts refers to dysfunction. Since the idealized family is just short of a fantasy much of literature, television and movies have concentrated on the dysfunctional variety. One reason so many people watch is the fact that the families on display are usually more messed up than our own. The other side of that coin is all too often they strike a chord within us that provides some insight into our own family’s circumstances. A film maker can go off in many directions with this as a central them but the most difficult path to follow is the drama. Making a seriously disturbed family into a comedy allows for the situation to take over. With a drama the story has to be all about the characters. It takes considerable skill to pull this off successfully but one recent film has pushed this genre to new heights’ ‘Rachel Getting Married’. This is one of the best crafted dramas I have seen in many years. The story is taut; full of stark, raw emotions. The characters are fully formed human beings with all the foibles and misgivings shared by our species.
As anyone with a family knows if you want to create a setting that is naturally prone to conflict gather everybody together and supply a good quantity of alcohol. To this end there are few settings better than a wedding. It is supposed to be the happiest day in a couple’s life but all too often something, or more likely, someone happens to derail the proceedings. There is always some drunk uncle who has one too many drinks or a black sheep relative who shows up unexpectedly to make trouble. In the case of this film it is a deeply disturbed sister coming home with enough emotional baggage to fill a hotel. A wedding is a great means to through a group of characters together. In this case the nuptials serve as a crucible where the façade of civilities are slowly stripped away. Many movies are described as being character driven but most dim in comparison to this film. The depth of the characterizations is remarkable. It sets the stage for some of the most stunning and riveting performances to come on the scene in ages. This film quickly became the darling of the awards season and rightfully so. Most of the accolades were for the acting here and with good cause; they are beyond excellent. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has released the film in DVD and Blu-ray so you can watch and enjoy this intimate look into the lives of these people whenever you want.
The screenplay was written by Jenny Lumet who has some prior work as an actress mostly in smaller films. This is the first time with scripting and you might not recognize her name at least not directly. She is the daughter of famed director Sidney Lumet and the granddaughter of singer Lena Lorne. Ms Lumet has learned out to tell a story from her father, one of the best in the business. With this story she creates a full world inhabited by people that will all be very familiar to the audience. Instead of just reflecting archetypes as is so commonly done Lumet structures her characters are human beings that are all striving for the same things we do; life, love and stability. As is the case in the real world these simple goals are often unimaginably difficult to achieve. The way that Ms Lumet presents the people here, it is difficult to just call them characters, is so brutally honest that you might start thinking you were at this doomed wedding. There are some points in the story that may seem weak. They are not; they are just reflecting the ebb and flow of a family’s ever changing dynamic. There is a strange sort of balance present in this script that adds flavor to the presentation.
Jonathan Demme directs this film with the best of his flair and style. He made a name for himself in the industry with such gripping movies as ‘Silence of the Lambs’ and ‘Philadelphia’. As is the case with this film they were both extremely well constructed character studies that focus on the dark aspects of the human personality. In this movie the destination of the characters is not ass important as their journey. Demme uses the camera as a voyeur bringing you not only into the chaos surrounding the wedding but behind the closed doors where all pretenses are let down. The conflict that he places on exhibit for the audience is honest to the point that at times it is difficult to watch. With that said you will be mesmerized by the outpouring of emotions that leaps off the screen. Demme is he perfect choice to direct this opus; he is what is commonly called an actor’s director. He realizes the talent of the cast and guides them to reach beyond their past experiences to achieve greatness.
Anne Hathaway is not the titular character here but she dominates the screen in every scene. Most people recognize her from her early work as a princess in light hearted romantic comedies. To prevent the dreaded type casting Hathaway took on roles in more adult faire. She even did well in the lamentable ‘Havoc’ and gave a brilliant supporting portrayal in ‘Brokeback Mountain’. This is the first film in her resume that demonstrates the depth of her talent. This beautiful young woman has the command of her craft that demands recognition making her one of the shining stars on the horizon.
Ms Hathaway plays the sister of the bride to be Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt), Kym. She is a mess to put it lightly. Kym shows up to Rachel’s wedding on leave from rehab. She has been in and out of such facilities for the last decade unable to put any aspect of her life in order. Kym is a chain smoking wreck of a person without the usual internal censor that normally prevents conflict. She speaks her mind no matter what consequences it may bring. In a scene where Kym is in a twelve step program we do get insight as to the origins of her emotional problems; a great tragedy that still haunts her. The film is a contrast between Rachel and Kym but that is only the foundation. It depicts two sisters that love each other but have been torn apart and now have to discover some means to relate to each other. Kym has hated herself for a long time and can only cope by deflecting this on to anyone in range. She has to find some way to deal with her inner demons but has self medicated for so long that Kym lacks the proper emotional stability to succeed.
This is one of the most powerful movies of all time and deserves to be watched and considered many times over. Ms Hathaway garnered numerous awards and nominations for her role here and richly deserved them all. Get this film and rediscover how great a film can be.