Rachel Getting Married

This is a fine drama about a recovering addict coming home that avoids the cliches such stories usually include, and contains some of the strongest performances of the year. Anne Hathaway nails Kym, the sister who’s been in and our of rehab for 10 years; the self-absorbed sibling rivalry with her soon to be wed sister is spot on. Rosemarie DeWitt is more subtle as Rachel, and the rest of the cast may not be unknowns, but are masterfully put together as an ensemble of characters we know but won’t recognize. You really sink into the wedding and begin to feel like a guest.
But as Demme and his cinematographer plunge us into this familiar yet diverse family gathering, we get a little lost. A scene where the groom-to-be and his future father-in-law have a good-natured duel over who can load the dishwasher faster is way too banal to keep our attention for 5 minutes. There are too many crowd shots to make us recall what it’s like to wander through a vibrant party where families are meeting for the first time. It’s effective, but distracting. Ebert gave it 4 stars and said the movie’s “true message” was the diverse marriage ceremony. I think he took an extra painkiller that day. The movie nails the relationship dynamics of a family with an addict, a tragedy, and a divorce without ever being hackneyed. Debra Winger- the girls’ mother- has an importance belied by her short screentime, and the nature of Kym’s supposed redemption is easy to miss. I enjoyed it much more than Revolutionary Road, and while Kate Winslet may have out-acted Anne Hathaway, Jonathan Demme could teach Sam Mendes a thing or two about subtlety.
It will probably be snubbed for being released too early in the Oscar season, but this is one of the year’s best dramas. It’s not as fresh as Slumdog or as perfect as The Wrestler, but it should not be overlooked, even though it stars an ex-Disney girl everyone would like to see fail.