Rachel Getting Married 

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis



            ďRachel Getting MarriedĒ is an intravenous injection of acute discomfort. Itís a safe bet that audiences will squirm in recognition at director Jonathan Demmeís handling of the multiple dysfunctions of the Buchman family. Donít make the mistake of thinking Demme is merely telling the story of Kym (Anne Hathaway) who is on a weekend leave from rehab for her sisterís wedding. He is far too smart for that. He has painted a family that gives every single person a role in the must-be-perfect family event. If you donít see a universal thread here, look again. The discomfort in the audience is the measure of Demmeís success. 

            The director shows us the movie as if it is filmed through the lens of a wedding guest who pans the room without knowing where to focus the camera. Contemporaries of the bridal couple talk the language of today Ė a verbal outpouring at the speed of text that dribbles off into an indistinguishable mumble, too tired, it seems, at the end of the sentence to finish it coherently. As a result, we in the audience feel like the older aunt or uncle invited to share the family happiness, but quite clear that we come from an early lingual time. There is an unusual authenticity to the film that puts us right in the middle of the wedding and allows us to be chilled by the drama when it comes; and come it does. 

            If self-absorption is the characteristic of youth (what else can you be as youíre growing up?), it is even more so when applied to a recovering addict in rehab (what else can you be when trying to find your way back?) Kymís return along with her sharp, sudden reactions to emotional triggers, threaten to undermine the wedding weekend, but instead of taking this easy road, Demme probes the family chemistry through the confrontations that Kym forces on her relatives. This is one young person who will not go gently into sobriety without understanding the whys of what happened to her. 

            Anne Hathaway gives a terrific performance as the mercurial sister whose determination Ė at all costs - to stay sober threatens the family happiness. Watch her reactions when she goes upstairs to revisit her childhood. Rosemary DeWitt is marvelous as Rachel. She and Hathaway have transcendent moments when Rachel is able to put aside her anger to join in her wounded sisterís journey. Bill Irwin and Debra Winger shine as the divorced father and mother of the bride, each throwing the requested light for their daughters on the family history. You will be a rare exception if you donít squirm at something uncomfortably familiar in this movie. The rehearsal dinner, the wedding, the reception, the meeting of the families. In showing us the grating interplay in the Buchman family, Jonathan Demme reminds us that when family occasions demand that everyone be perfect, very few of us measure up. 


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