Rachel Getting Married (2008)

March 25, 2017 · Regal Riviera · 1:00 P.M.

“[Demme] has never been one to restrict his sympathies, and the wonderful thing about Rachel Getting Married is how expansive it seems, in spite of the limits of its scope and the modesty of its ambitions. It’s a small movie, and in some ways a very sad one, but it has an undeniable and authentic vitality, an exuberance of spirit, that feels welcome and rare.”–A.O. Scott, The New York Times

“A triumph–Demme’s finest work since The Silence of the Lambs, and a movie that tingles with life.”–Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

Rachel (Rosemarie Dewitt) is getting married. But Kym (Anne Hathaway), Rachel’s sister, temporarily released from rehab for the weekend, threatens to ruin the whole weekend with her barely simmering jealousy, resentment, and pain.

Jenny Lumet’s script bravely aligns us with Kym, a deeply complicated and wounded woman whose behavior challenges our sympathies. Comparisons to Robert Altman (thanked in the film’s credits) are not surprising, but a more apt comparison might be the compassionate ensemble work of Jean Renoir (Grand Illusion, The Rules of the Game). Ultimately, though, it’s pure Demme. His characteristically open-hearted approach reveals telling human details about even the most minor of characters and mines seemingly inconsequential events (like a competition to load a dishwasher) for powerful emotions. Demme’s obsession with music finds new inventive forms here. The score is performed live on camera by various characters throughout the wedding weekend, reminding us again how life is performance and performance is life.

Anne Hathaway garnered her first Academy Award nomination for her portrayal of Kym, and Rosemarie Dewitt (in a less showy role) is every bit her equal. Supporting performances from the great Debra Winger, Bill Irwin, Anna Deavere Smith, and TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe (as Rachel’s fiance) make this one of Demme’s best ensembles.

Rachel Getting Married screened as part of our 11-film Jonathan Demme retrospective, Life is Performance / Performance is Life, at Big Ears.