Movie Review: Rachel Getting Married (2008)

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Anne Hathaway as Kym in Rachel Getting Married
Photo: Sony Pictures Classics

There is no one thing I didn’t like about Rachel Getting Married but there are a few particulars (one especially) and enough details I didn’t care for that certainly add to my displeasure in watching this film. A film that made me feel like an uninvited outsider forced to endure what may be the most maddening couple of days you could ever spend with a family dysfunctional enough for me to expect the uncle actually is molesting the middle child. There is an ego to Rachel Getting Married that made me uncomfortable and I am not talking about the story so much as I am about the filmmakers behind it. When the credits began to roll and I saw Anne Hathaway’s character’s name was spelled Kym, that “y” basically sealed the deal for me. I was no longer convinced I had just watched a film attempting to give us a look into a real slice of life as much as I was looking at a pretentious piece of filmmaking designed to make me feel something just because it was something to feel.

The film centers on Kym (Hathaway), an addict in rehab who is getting a couple days off to take part in her sister Rachel’s (Rosemarie DeWitt) wedding, hence the title. Kym’s return home is a rocky one. Thinking she will be the maid of honor she soon finds out Rachel’s best friend Emma (Anisa George) has been asked to do the honors and a deceased family member forces many people to put on a “happy face” even though past memories continue to haunt them, and Kym’s selfish “me first” attitude isn’t making matters any better.

Anne Hathaway and everyone else, DeWitt especially, are very good in this film. The performances are real and you truly feel as if you may actually be in attendance of one family’s wedding rehearsal, ceremony and reception. Considering the dysfunctional, substance abuse angle thrown into that realism I am surprised more critics aren’t coming out and calling this one of the most uncomfortable films to be released in some time. And don’t tell me that is part of the film’s charm. I don’t want to be uncomfortable while I watch someone embarrass themselves in a rehearsal toast, especially if realism is the angle. Of course a certain measure of tension is needed in filmmaking, an uncomfortable moment can lead to a more soothing outcome, but Rachel Getting Married isn’t interested in the audience’s comfort level at any moment and if anyone tries to tell me there is some measure of acceptance and familial bonding at the end of this film I will fight them tooth and nail in disagreement.

I also don’t want to hear arguments of layers and complexity in the characters. There are no more layers to the people in this movie than there are in any of us. The people in this film are ordinary, and some have been asked to add to their character’s frame of mind the idea of one extraordinary circumstance, but that doesn’t make them any different than you or I. The realism isn’t a bad thing in terms of performance, because everyone made me feel as if I was watching the real thing, but it is the source of the uncomfortable nature and boredom I began to feel as the film went on.

If you have been invited by a friend or family member to a gathering of people you don’t already know you have some idea of the environment in which this film takes place. Now imagine you are in attendance and there is a tension in the air no one is talking about. You feel unwelcome and you don’t have much of a desire to speak to or get to know anyone. That’s Rachel Getting Married in a nutshell. Well, that and one of the most ridiculous female-on-female right cross deliveries I have ever seen. If it had been delivered with a “Batman” television series “POW!” it may have been more believable.

This film irked me by how great it seems to think it is. Unfortunately it is redundant and overly morose and not deserving of its own ego. If this had been my wedding I would want the honeymoon to be in Hell just because it would seem fitting. The performances are great even if Hathaway is getting all the spotlight when DeWitt was the true over achiever. If you want more of her you can catch her on “Mad Men” as Midge and she will also be starring in Diablo Cody’s upcoming Showtime television series “The United States of Tara” as Charmaine.

Director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia) did a fine job with what he was offered, but this is a film I can’t find enjoyment in regardless of how well it was made. I don’t need a movie to have a happy ending, I just want something, or someone, to connect to and give me a reason to watch. The reason to watch Rachel Getting Married is unknown. Am I watching because of the great performances? If so I can find great performances in plenty of more enjoyable films that don’t leave me hanging my head in despair. I have a hammer I can pound my fingers with if pain is on the menu.

GRADE: C-