Monday, January 05, 2009

Rachel Getting Married

Cat Fight

Rachel Getting Married has been getting some pretty positive vibes because of the performance of its leading actress Anne Hathaway. And it's indeed a role that she could use as a showcase to break out of her mold as a teeny-bopper/good looker since she started off with The Princess Diaries.

Her stint in recent movies such as the intern in The Devil Wears Prada, as Jane Austen in Becoming Jane and her Agent 99 in Get Smart, still had her rooted in being pretty much a glamour puss, and Brokeback Mountain offered a very brief supporting role, no doubt it was primarily centered on the two male leads of course. And not forgetting the rather average Havoc, which reminded that it doesn't mean you need to shed your clothes in order to be taken seriously.

Jonathan Demme's Rachel Getting Married offered Hathaway plenty, and I mean plenty of room to highlight the spectrum of emotions that she could play as a druggie on rehab, Kym, who's let off for a few days in order to attend her sister's wedding, the titular Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt). But of course being released from rehab and heading home for the first time, she seems, or perceives herself to be a fish out of water, and becomes rather unsteady in her approach toward one and all in the family.

Jenny Lumet's story is superb. There's some much emotion running through all the characters, that they are easily identifiable, and doesn't fall into stereotypes. A whole host of narrative threads get thrown up, but it doesn't confuse nor confound. It patiently builds up back-stories to each lead character, but doesn't frustrate the viewer because it simply draws you in. After all, it's centered around a wedding, where emotions, stress and anxiety are running high, and words come loose off the cuff, where something said could hurt like daggers through the heart.

There were two extended scenes which I really enjoyed, one being the evening dinner before the big day, where in laws and close friends share a meal together, and give their respective toasts to the bride and groom. Plenty of good stuff here, from music to excellent tribute monologues, and of course Hathaway's performance during this scene that really nails her character, followed by an explosive argument which really was the icing on the cake.

The other scene would involve the actual wedding of course, and Jonathan Demme for this movie, had decided to employ what horror and action films had done so with certain degree of success, the shaky-cam! For a drama? Yes. Does it work? I thought for this story, it worked particularly well. It seemed as if you are partaking in the festivities yourself, being put there in the crowd, and watching events unfold like a close relative, an unseen voyeur, or what I felt it was most like, watching a wedding video which was shot on a handheld, and having to sift through everything in order to edit the best cut for the wedding couple. It's documentary style, having the camera poke its nose into every character and capturing some candid moments, both good and bad.

The usual family squabbles amongst parents and siblings come and go, and also serves as a reminder that no matter how hard or how pointed some arguments can get and hurt, that blood still runs thicker than water. Watch out for Debra Winger as the mom and the startling development with Hathaway's Kym. I thought for one that it was something rarely seen on screen in a story besides that shaving of the underarms (OK I jest!).

Rachel Getting Married is still an enjoyable (almost) two hours that you wouldn't notice fly by because of the excellent ensemble cast, and a story captured rather accurately on themes revolving around family. It's as good as it can be, and leaves you with that feeling of wanting to experience it all over again. Recommended.

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