Tuesday, January 27, 2009

1/25/09: Rachel Getting Married (2008)

Forget the story: in Rachel Getting Married, it's all about the backstory. Middle sibling Kym (Anne Hathaway) is a substance abuser who caused the death of her little brother while high. She's been in and out of rehab, and now her highly dysfunctional family (including stepparents) are gathering on home turf for the interracial wedding of older sister Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt). The film documents the day or two leading up to the big event, during which the spiteful sisters segue from snipping at each other to full-blown war—inconvenient timing, to say the least. It's all acted very convincingly, of course, and director Jonathan Demme's idea to film it all with a handheld camera (shakier even than in Cloverfield) is meant to give the viewer an uncomfortable sense of proximity. The technique is effective, inasmuch as I felt as uncomfortable as possible.

The intense scenes of awkwardness and nerve-frazzlng vitriol take us through two-thirds of the film, to the wedding, when it suddenly and inexplicably turns into a bush-league version of Woodstock, with more musical acts singing and jamming than at your average Lollapalooza concert. (There's even an extended Brazilian belly dance scene—for a moment I thought I'd nodded off and woke up during a different picture.) Hathaway's performance snared an Oscar nomination for Best Actress; with her bottle-colored hair and sad eyes—check out that cool poster!—her Kym suggests a grown-up version of Claire Danes' character from My So-Called Life, had Angela Chase discovered Pall Malls and Percocet. And I completely failed to recognize Debra Winger as the girls' biological mother. As the various family members blast epithets, dredge up old battles and slap each other in the face, the tears turn on like a faucet, all while father Bill Irwin struggles valiantly to keep the peace. Rachel Gets Married goes for the Olympic gold in making viewers squirm, and wins. Rating: 2/5.

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