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Rachel Getting Married

Rachel Getting Married

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

JONATHAN Demme is no stranger to helping stars undergo radical career transformations. In Silence of The Lambs, for example, he helped turn Anthony Hopkins from thesp stalwart to chilling serial killer, while Philadelphia found Tom Hanks taking on gay rights as an Aids-stricken lawyer.

For Rachel Getting Married, he transforms Anne Hathaway from mainstream beauty to selfish drug addict… and the talented young actress rises to the challenge well.

The only problem with having such a difficult character at the centre of a movie, however, is that she’s likely to frustrate as many viewers as she impresses, especially since Demme’s warts-and-all documentary-style approach to this particular wedding occasionally makes you feel like a party crasher!

Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) is getting married and Kym (Hathaway), her black-sheep sister, has decided to come out of rehab to attend. Trouble is, Kym has a habit of saying exactly what she feels and the guilt she still carries from a past family tragedy threatens to derail the whole happy weekend.

On the plus side, Demme’s film feels fresh and arrives like a welcome antidote to the numerous slushy big Hollywood wedding movies (Hathaway’s own recent Bride Wars included!) that insist on smothering you with sappy emotions.

This feels real and intimate; sometimes uncomfortably so. This is a dysfunctional family with very real problems and they’re not afraid to air their laundry – an honesty that gives rise to some hard-hitting confrontations.

Hathaway is superb – twitchy, neurotic, self-obsessed yet ultimately fragile and craving forgiveness and love. Likewise DeWitt, as her “good girl” sister – who’s equally capable of striking out. Deborah Winger, meanwhile, excels as the girls’ absent mother, especially in one bruising encounter with Kym, but watch out, too, for a less showy performance from Bill Irwin as the sensitive family patriarch.

As good as elements of Rachel Getting Married are, however, it’s a film to be approached with a certain amount of caution. Some of the scenes feel hopelessly self-indulgent, while the characters take a while to warm to. Some viewers may find themselves wanting to scream: “Get over yourselves!”

No matter which side you fall, though, there’s no denying Demme’s skill for his craft, or the strength of the film’s performances. You may feel like you’ve spent the whole weekend with this family, experiencing their highs and lows in sometimes excruciating fashion, but you’re sure to take something from the experience.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 113mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: June 29, 2009