Ticket price: 10.99
Seat: upper right
Weather: wet snow
Food: Dr. Pepper, Mike & Ikes
Pre-show ads: Coke, Toyota, Telus
Trailers: Heaven on Earth
For a film about ordinary events, Rachel Getting Married is an ambitious and accomplished piece of work by screenwriter Jenny Lumet, director Johnathan Demme, and an impressive cast led by Anne Hathaway. Continuing her stretch into more adult roles, Hathaway does not play the titular bride-to-be; she is Rachel’s sister Kym, arriving home from rehab just in time for the rehearsal dinner.
There is a very realistic family dynamic at work: damaged Kym contrasts against psychology student Rachel, both of them still coping with the loss of a younger brother (due to accident) which in turn led to the loss of their mother (due to divorce). Kym feels responsible for the brother’s death and is unable to forgive herself, desperately clinging to 12-step techniques to get her through the already tense environment of a wedding. Rachel (Rosemarie Dewitt) has felt the need to be perfect in the wake of her sister’s problems and wants the wedding day to be about her for once. Their father Paul (Bill Irwin) is a musician who annoys Kym by hovering around her after her homecoming, but he perhaps is not so much afraid of what Kym might do as he is of losing another child. Their beautiful Connecticut home is filled with a circus of family and friends, musicians and characters from a wide range of cultures.
Jenny Lumet, daughter of the great director Sydney, knocks a difficult screenplay out of the park. The topics covered by this film- rehab, wedding, family, redemption, , coping, catharsis- are examined regularly by Hollywood and usually result in spoon-fed, manipulative tearjerkers. Lumet chooses instead to give the audience glimpses into the past without connecting all of the dots for us. There is an interesting exchange of words about the bridesmaids’ dresses, coloured purple, which Kym complains looks terrible on her. “You wore a purple sweater on that magazine cover when you were 16,” says Rachel; “they were paying me, and I was stoned out of my mind,” retorts Kym. So Kym was a model, at least for a short time; in a later conversation with her mother (Debra Winger), she refers to “weighing 6 pounds” at that time of her life. There is not a moment of this film that feels false; even the ending, while generally positive, is somewhat uncertain.
Johnathan Demme and cinematographer Declan Quinn are as usual masters of the camera, shooting mostly with hand-held high definition digital video, unafraid to hold a shot for a long moment. There are several scenes that verge on overlong, only to pay off in an unexpected way. The presence of a wide variety of musicians in the film allows for the ingenious device of having them provide the soundtrack as they practise for the wedding. Demme has filmed numerous music videos and several concert films, including two for Neil Young (whose song “Unknown Legend” is sung to the bride by the groom) and one for Robyn Hitchcock, who appears in the film as a wedding guest and performs a couple of numbers.
Rachel Getting Married has attracted a great deal of well-deserved attention, including a number of nominations for Independent Spirit awards, which makes sense considering how it recalls the work of directors like Robert Altman, John Cassavetes, Woody Allen, and John Sayles. I do believe that it is the best film I have seen so far in Cinema 3, and it is a contender to topple In Bruges from the title of best film of the year; it’s hard to believe it exists on the same planet with formula like High School Musical, The Secret Life of Bees, or Nights in Rodanthe.
Crowd reaction at end of movie: none.
Credit cookie?: no.
Opening next week: Doubt, Nothing Like the Holidays, The Reader, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Gran Torino
Hoping for: The Day the Earth Stood Still