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Rachel Getting Married

A 2008 drama film directed by Jonathan Demme.

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An unsettlingly real portrait of a family dealing with loss and addiction at a time of celebration

  • Mar 21, 2009
Several reviewers describe this film as painful to watch - and the subject matter is painful, but I found it fascinating, both because of the high level of the performances and because of the exceptionally strong camera work. I was also very impressed by the fact that the interracial marriage that gives the film its title was never made into an issue -- while there is definitely still room for films that address the various forms of prejudice (racial and otherwise) that continue to have strong roots in our societies and world, it is refreshing to live in a time where not every film that represents racial and cultural differences needs to be about prejudice. We've made some progress since Guess Who's Coming to Dinner ...

One might mistake the camera work for the low-budget, amateur home movie style that film students employ to give their productions a feel of authenticity. But that is only if you aren't paying attention to the way that the camera inevitably captures just the right angle to get just the reactions necessary to tell the story in a seemingly effortless way, or if you aren't paying attention to how seamlessly the various shots are edited together, creating a very strong feeling of continuity and flow that is both natural and spontaneous. There is a great deal of art to the seeming artlessness of this film work - in that sense the film resembles some of the best of the "Dogme 95" films (such as The Celebration or Open Hearts), that insisted on natural lighting and handheld camera work (among other things) in order to keep the focus on the performances. While I would hate it if every film were made this way, some subjects - such as the intimate family drama, such as this one -- are perfectly suited for such an approach. (Massive monsters eating NYC - as in Cloverfield - are less appropriate subjects for this treatment, and in that film it feels much more like a gimmick to add the appearance of authenticity to a patently false premise - and thereby save money on the special effects that would be required to do it in the usual way.)

Jonathan Demme adds an element to the film that may be considered a reflection upon the "home movie" style - the film is captured in the style of an outside observer who nevertheless is given complete access to the most intimate aspects of the lives of the family members. There is a member of the groom's family (perhaps his brother) who has just returned from military service in Iraq, and carries a video camera with him to capture the event, and who may serve as a kind of surrogate for the actual videographer. It is telling that Rachel's father, after praising the young man's service and hoping he will no longer be called into danger, encourages him to put down the camera: to let go of the status of a mere observer and take part in the festivities. This is, of course, a family of artists, musicians, and academics - and the soldier may feel out of place, but is encouraged not to. At some level, the film offers an ideal image of America - where cultural differences and racial differences can be taken for granted, not as differences that divide but as what makes our coming together that much more interesting. The documentary style helped make this ideal not seem so much like a Hollywood fantasy but a palpable reality. It is made easier to believe by the fact that economic differences do not figure in this film - everyone seems well enough off - but that omission should not be taken as a failing of the film as a glaring revelation (multicultural embrace tends still not to be possible except where economic status is comparable).

Another nice touch was the inclusion of Robyn Hitchcock as a wedding singer (director Jonathan Demme also directed a documentary called Storefront Hitchcock) and the inclusion of the Neal Young song "Unknown Legend" as a serenade from the title character's fiance (Demme also directed the excellent doc Heart of Gold about Young). The only thing missing was a rendition of Talking Head's "Once in a Lifetime" to recall his most famous documentary Stop Making Sense. Oh well, you can't have everything ... and I think it would have been hard to fit that in without detracting from the overall tone of the film.

For a number of reasons, I thoroughly enjoyed this film, and hope that Demme continues to make films along these lines for a long time (as much as I liked The Silence of the Lambs, I'd like to see more that have the raw and intimate feel of this one, since few major players in Hollywood have the talent to pull something like this off in a convincingly authentic way.)

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More Rachel Getting Married reviews
Quick Tip by . September 19, 2013
romantic emotional, love, relationship, not easy, while we still try make it be happier!
review by . July 22, 2009
Take a look at the star ratings! I've never seen such a curve, with twice as many one-stars as any other number, and with such rhapsody versus such vehemence in the reviews. You'd think it was a book about global warming, from such agonistic writing.    I can understand both sides here. "Rachel Getting Married" was in no way entertainment. Even my wife, who for once didn't fall asleep in the middle of a movie she'd rented herself, said she was 'glad she'd seen it' but wouldn't …
review by . February 15, 2009
Short Attention Span Summary (SASS):     1. Kym (Anne Hathaway) gets out of rehab, just as ...   2. ... her sister Rachel's getting married   3. Kym immediately starts making waves as she does her best impression of "normal" within a dysfunctional group.   4. What the heck's up with the bridegroom (Tunde Adebimpe) and those gawd-awful glasses? I know we're trying for "regular" people here, but no self-respecting brother's gonna be caught dead in …
review by . April 06, 2009
Still dealing with her emotional angst, Kym (Anne Hathaway) is sprung from rehab for the weekend, to attend the wedding of her sister Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt).     When she appears at the pre-nuptial events, Kym faces a host of demons - the least of which are memories of past drama and disappointments. As she wends her way through the emotional debris and faces the anger, hostility and sheer resentments of family members and friends, Kym discovers that forgiveness does not come …
review by . June 13, 2009
Jonathan Demme's latest may boast an award-nominated performance by Anne Hathaway but gets a little too confessional for my tastes. Self revelation is a good thing as long as it reveals--not retards the flow of a film.    Demme's camera drops right in on this Long Island family as the oldest daughter is marrying the man of her dreams in a slightly unconventional ceremony.  During this time spent with the touchy, highly combustible personalities we meet Rachel's sister Kim(Hathaway), …
review by . May 17, 2009
Watching this movie was difficult for me. On the one hand, it's interesting to see a 'take' on how a family copes with addiction and tragedy. I happen to know from personal experience.    Some of the characters were o-kay for stereotypes, but as genuine reflections? Not so much.    Especially Anne Hathaway's character.    If you've EVER dealt with an addict or a recovering one (especially early on), they are no where near as 'thinking' …
review by . March 22, 2009
I had heard about this movie and figured I would enjoy it but wow, just wow! This movie was great, I would definitely call it eclectic. The group of people in this movie were amazing, from the main actors to the wedding party guests to all the musicians it was just great. Made me wish I was part of this diverse group of people, it was just awesome to see.    For awhile I was bothered by some of the background information that was only hinted at about Kym's background but then …
review by . March 14, 2009
RACHEL GETTING MARRIED proved to be an entry card for Anne Hathaway's Oscar nomination, and while she turns in a strong performance, there is really very little else to recommend this film so unlike the work of Jonathan Demme. Written by Jenny Lumet, the story of a dysfunctional family on the weekend of the marriage of daughter Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) being upturned by the arrival of daughter Kym (Hathaway) on temporary leave from a rehab center and the clashes that occur from this planned happy …
About the reviewer
Nathan Andersen ()
Ranked #68
I teach philosophy at Eckerd College, in Saint Petersburg, Florida.      I run an award-winning International Cinema series in Tampa Bay (www.eckerd.edu/ic), and am co-director of … more
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Rachel Getting Married is a 2008 drama film directed by Jonathan Demme, and starring Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Bill Irwin and Debra Winger. The film was released in the U.S. to select theaters on October 3, 2008. The film opened the 65th Venice International Film Festival. The film also opened in Canada's Toronto Film Festival on September 6, 2008. Hathaway was nominated for Academy Award for Best Actress for her role, but lost to Kate Winslet in The Reader.
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Genre: Drama
DVD Release Date: March 10, 2009
Runtime: 113 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures Classics

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