I normally cry at weddings (and wedding scenes), so spending a whole wedding weekend with Rachel and her family in Rachel Getting Married was quite the teary experience. It’s not all weeping and sighing (though there's a lot of that, in both the joyful and the heart-wrenching scenes) — there is also silliness and humor. It's a movie about forgiveness, heartache and the tenderness of human frailty. So, despite the lovely main plot point (a backyard wedding overflowing with the generosity of friends and family), it's incredibly heavy.
Rachel (Rosemarie Dewitt) is indeed getting married at her father's home in Connecticut, and her recovering addict sister Kym (Anne Hathaway) is coming home from rehab to spend the weekend with her family. The duration of the movie takes place over this weekend as we watch the roots of the family's dysfunction unravel before us. There isn't a ton that happens in the story, but an awful lot is said and even more implied. The family spends the weekend in the warm company of friends and family, but while the guests are in full wedding celebration mode, the simmering emotions between the sisters, their father and their mother boil over, creating some majorly messy drama. For more of my thoughts on the film, read more.
Anne Hathaway's performance as Kym is touching and pitiful, though in truth, every performance in this film is top-notch. This is as much a testament to director Jonathan Demme as it is to the actors. The plot lurches in fits and spurts, with banal, everyday moments buffering the appalling and intensely sad ones. Each character is portrayed in a hyper-realistic light and their relationships are sticky and exhaustingly complex, with much of the disappointment in one another coming from their expectations of what a sister/father/mother should be doing or saying. It makes you cringe, even as (or because) you find some of these arguments or judgments familiar.
The handheld shaky-cam filming style makes the whole thing feel like documentary footage, or like we're just spying on these people. In the same way you're captivated by an interesting conversation taking place one table over in a restaurant, this movie is absorbing because it seems like we're really eavesdropping, almost to the point of feeling voyeuristic. This isn't a bad thing, really, though it's not for people who like their movie drama to be pretty or sugarcoated.
In reality, I think a lot of people like to see what's going on in other peoples' lives. It's why rubbernecking happens, why people "love to see a train wreck." Not (necessarily) to ridicule the victims but to feel like all of human experience is common and shared. There are plenty of tearful fights and screaming matches and tense showdowns in Rachel Getting Married. But there are just as many moments when you feel like you actually are at someone's wedding, what with all the heartfelt toasts and the warm embracing and the sweetly shy introductions between families. It's as fascinating and painful as any real-life human journey, which is both sad and comforting at the same time.
Photos courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics