Movie Reviews
11:08 am
Sat October 25, 2008

Rachel Getting Married

As Good as Margot

"If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance." George Bernard Shaw


Family gatherings, especially weddings are tough: resentments, secrets, lies, jealousies, and the king of them all-memories. In Rachel Getting Married, Jonathan Demme, no stranger to emotionally charged, confined human spaces, expertly navigates his frequently hand-held camera among the revelers of a Connecticut wedding that must deal with daughter/sister Kym's (Anne Hathaway) return from nine months in rehab.

Besides her difficulty with the 12-Step Plan (the "Amends" step is particularly challenging), Kym must confront, as all the family does, her role in the death by drowning years ago of her baby brother. Rachel, happy to be soon married to gifted musician Sidney (Tunde Adebimpe), tries to balance the joy of the wedding against confrontation with memories of the past that Kym seems unable to stop from happening. Although there are moments of surprise, none can eclipse our wonder that the family survives its past at all.

In some ways, Rachel getting married is as good as Noah Baumbach's Margot at the Wedding (2007) both in story and execution. Baumbach's protagonist, writer Margot (Nicole Kidman), has a flare for exposing her family dysfunctions, she a major part of the unrest; Kym also serves as a catalyst for surfacing the family ugliness. Both films are models of trenchant social criticism. As in Mike Leigh's Secrets and Lies, the family that finally tells the truth may survive the hell that seems to accompany many family gatherings trying too hard to be happy.

Although I usually eschew praise for acting, Anne Hathaway proves she is not just an interesting face. With more than one child in this film capable of transforming an otherwise benign wedding into a horror show, she plays spot on the gifted but difficult one whose past continues to color their present.

"There is no such thing as 'fun for the whole family.'" Jerry Seinfeld