Rachel Getting Married
Rachel Getting Married witnesses the gathering of two wonderfully vibrant families for the nuptials of title character Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) and African-American musician Sidney (Tunde Adebimpe). While the attention should be focussed on the blushing bride to be, it’s her sister Kym (Anne Hathaway), fresh out of rehab, who leads the narrative.
The families embrace each other with warmth, and along with Sidney’s eccentric musical friends it creates a fun and charming atmosphere. The tone is soon dampened when Kym confronts her family, with honesty for the first time, as she reveals a devastating past. Loving and dorky Dad in denial, played tremendously by Bill Irwin (best known as Mr Noodle from Elmo’s World), is desperate to keep the family close. This standout performance made all the more significant when he and the soon-to-be son-in-law embark on a bizarre contest of speed and efficiency of loading the dishwasher. The guests form a spectating crowd, cheering and chanting, with the violinist improvising a racing and suspenseful soundtrack. These light hearted moments draw us into the convivial ambience of the occasion, taking relief from personal issues and concerns.
Improvisation from the surrounding cast was encouraged throughout production, as Hollywood director Jonathon Demme, whose previous works include The Silence of the Lambs (1991) and Philadelphia (1993), dramatically changes approach to become more akin to independent cinema, such as Half Nelson (2006) and The Wrestler (2008)
Demme has proved throughout his career that he can produce quality from a range of genres and draws on many aspects of his previous work for Rachel. While hand-held cameras were used to provide a claustrophobic emotion in Philadelphia and Lambs, here it aids the vérité method of filmmaking. The fly on the wall, documentary style benefits the film and instead of allowing its voyeuristic qualities to take control it contributes to a natural watch, inviting the audience into the party with the characters.
Demme’s ability portray complex heroines, as he did with the famous Clarice, is forced to re-emerge by Anne Hathaway’s protagonist. Her performance was undeniably worthy of her Oscar nomination as she drains every drop out of this complex character; who despite being a self-centred attention seeking drug addict, she expresses her inner conflicts with a deep remorse that she struggles to articulate to her family. Despite her negative connotations she is likeable and convincing.
Demme commented that he loved the way Jenny Lumet’s script had a disregard for the conventional rules of writing likeable characters, expressing a bold approach to truth, pain and humour. He wasn’t wrong.