The similarities between Rachel Getting Married and last year's Margot at the Wedding didn't occur to me until I left the theater, but it was a realization that explained the detached, annoyed feeling I had as I sat through this movie. Turns out I don't really care about the problems of self-absorbed, upper-class, dysfunctional families who have oh-so-hip weddings in the backyards of their picturesque East Coast homes. My inability to access the emotions of these characters doesn't necessarily make Rachel Getting Married a bad movie, but it does, as evidenced in my score below, prevent me from calling it a great one. While highly superior to Margot, it left me with the same bad taste in my mouth, which was made even more sour because I was really hoping to like it.
It may sound a bit ridiculous if you know their respective styles well, but I still confuse the films of Ted Demme with those of his uncle, Jonathan Demme, despite the fact that the former died in 2002 of a drug-induced heart attack. A shame, because he appeared to be the more intriguing talent in the family; in the last 20 years I consider only three of Jonathan Demme's films notable: The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Philadelphia (1993), and The Agronomist (2003). With Rachel Getting Married, Demme returns to the more comedic notes of his 80's films, making it contemporary for today's audience by injecting the comedy into a tragedy. As in Margot at the Wedding, we're meant to laugh at the characters' pain.
Although Anne Hathaway (Get Smart, The Devil Wears Prada) owns Rachel Getting Married, she is in fact Kym, Rachel's younger sister. With permission to leave her drug rehab facility for the weekend of Rachel's wedding, Kym finds herself predictably uncomfortable with her dysfunctional family, the wedding party, and even the wedding guests. In order to mask her insecurities she jokes about her experience in rehab, but nobody finds her attitude funny, especially not her overbearing family. Awkward arguments and even domestic violence lead up to the big wedding day, which we experience, like everything else, in shaky, grainy handheld video. Why? I suppose so we'd think we were watching a home video or documentary about dysfunctional families and not another pretentious indie film about them.
While there wasn't much for me to like about the story and production style of Rachel Getting Married, I can't deny that it was superbly acted and sharply written by first-time screenwriter Jenny Lumet (daughter of Sidney). With unpredictable dialogue and a couple of fresh scenes (the dishwasher loading competition stands out), Lumet almost succeeded in making the movie less of a cliché. Sometimes I felt it was a little overwritten because I couldn't follow the torrid pace of the conversations, but that may have had more to do with Demme's direction than with screenplay.
The acting may be the one area of the film where Demme did not do too much, and it's on fine display here. As sister, mother, and father to our main character, respectively, Rosemarie DeWitt, Debra Winger, and Bill Irwin each provide some memorably emotional moments. I'm puzzled by the casting choice of Tunde Adebimpe of the indie rock group TV on the Radio; it seems like he was just playing himself here. Although he has some limited acting experience, I wonder if his character (the groom-to-be) couldn't have added more emotion to the film in the hands of a different actor. Hathaway, who here looks like Madame Tutli Putli from last year's Academy Award-nominated short, continues to show that her true talent was on display in Brokeback Mountain much more than it was in The Princess Diaries franchise or The Devil Wears Prada. She will almost certainly receive award consideration for a performance in a year that has so far only featured a handful of notable dramatic performances from both men and women.
It's been an interesting middle third of the year for me. In the past four months I've been to four weddings in four different cities (San Francisco, Minneapolis, San Diego, Boston). All different cities, all different styles (one officiated in Spanish, one featuring traditional Jewish rituals like the breaking of the glass), and yet none of them resembled anything like the tragedies in Rachel Getting Married. I'm not saying that the characters are unrealistic, but to the extremes that the story was taken here, I just couldn't get into it. There will certainly be people who can relate to the family relations in Rachel Getting Married, but I found myself appreciating only a few of the film's elements, so it ended up being a good movie that I just didn't like. Oh well, at least the music at the wedding was different from the usual playlist.
Writing - 9
Acting - 10
Production - 8
Emotional Impact - 6
Music - 5
Social Significance - 5
Total: 44/50= 88% = B+