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October 2008

By Wilson Morales


Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Director: Jonathan Demme
Screenwriter: Jenny Lumet
Cast: Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Bill Irwin, Anna Deavere Smith, Debra Winger, Tunde Adebimpe
Rating: R (for language and brief sexuality)


There have been plenty of films that highlight a wedding and siblings in separate occasions but never where the ‘black sheep’ is the center of attention. Anne Hathaway, in shedding her good girl image we have seen in previous films, gives a tour-de-force performance as the sister that comes home and almost ruins a wedding.

If there was an award for ‘comeback’ or ‘return-to-form’, director Jonathan Demme would get a nod. His last few films and documentaries, which included the remake of ‘The Manchurian Candidate’, ‘The Truth About Charlie’ and ‘Beloved’ didn’t do him justice after the critical acclaim he received for ‘Philadelphia’ and ‘Silence of the Lambs’. Written by Jenny Lumet, daughter of acclaimed director Sidney Lumet and granddaughter of legendary entertainer Lena Horne, ‘Rachel Getting Married’ is a poignant and provocative drama that gives insight to hidden emotions within a family.

Coming home with dad (Irwin) and her stepmom (Deavere Smith) from a rehab clinic, the time there has taken the beauty that once shined on Kym, a former model. She’s coming in for her older sister Rachel’s wedding and once back inside the house has to deal with that past she can’t forget. As Rachel, reluctantly, tolerates Kym’s erratic behavior, she gets bullied into dumping her friend from being maid-of-honor in favor of Kym. Not even settled in the house, Kym shacks up with the groom’s best man whom she coincidently met earlier at a rehab session. As dad is nervous Kym’s mood swings, Rachel sees the attention shifting from her and pleads her dad not to dote on Kym and let her be. It is her wedding week and she needs his support with everything. When mom Abby (Winger) comes by and everyone, including the future in-laws are gathered for a rehearsal dinner, it doesn’t take long for Kym to tell all about her stint in rehab and the reason behind it. In between the drama that’s unfolding within the family, music is played throughout the household by the groom’s buddies. By the way, the groom (Tunde Adebimpe) is a black musician from Hawaii. As the wedding nears, Kym feels she needs to get this ‘black sheep of the family’ label off her back and has it out with those who treat her as such.

This is Hathaway’s film all the way, although everyone else gives superb performances. Hathaway’s performance is gut-wrenching and bravado. Lumet’s screenplay captures a non-existent relationship between siblings that we rarely see in films. Her theme here is that blood is not always thicker than water. In an unforgettable supporting turn, Winger does more with her presence than with actual dialogue. Using a hand-held camera by ace cinematographer Declan Quinn, the film has a close and naturalistic feel as if you were inside observing the whole drama in front of you.

The only drawback maybe the extensive use of the music played in front and back of the camera. While it adds a mix to the wedding and highlights the background of the groom, it tends to shift the focus away from Rachel and Kym. That’s where the energy is. A newcomer, by way of screen presence, DeWitt holds her own with Hathaway. By the time the films ends, you leave knowing that a dysfunctional family have a way solving issues and still be at peace with each other.