Rachel Getting Married (2008)

“I think families are weird and insane…

They are the best source material.”

Jenny Lumet Interview with L.A. Times

I can’t agree with Lumet more… well, maybe not the insane part.  As screenwriter (daughter of director Sydney Lumet), she must have pondered the facts that the family is the first point of social contact a newborn is introduced to, the hotbed of human relationships from jealousy to rivalry, and the school of harsh lessons, learning to love amidst hate, forgive despite hurt.  That is the scenario in her script Rachel Getting Married.

And usually it’s at weddings that the raw emotions are exposed and where conflicting sentiments are so intense that they become unmanageable, hence, the source materials for many of our films…

It was full house again at The Calgary International Film Festival’s screening of Rachel Getting Married. First time screenwriter Jenny Lumet has crafted a realistic family portrait.  Director Jonathan Demme (of The Silence of the Lambs fame) uses roving camera work to effectively capture the naturalistic look, giving me the impression that I’m watching the home-made video of another family.  This film is definitely not for those with weak stomach or who are easily nauseated.

The movie is about Kym (Anne Hathaway) returning home for her sister Rachel’s (Rosemarie DeWitt) wedding.  Kym has been in rehab for some years, trying to deal with substance abuse.  Coming home is bitter sweet for all. First, Kym’s father has remarried and a wedding means the re-appearance of Kym’s mother (Debra Winger), and the re-opening of old wounds.  Further, the jealousy and sibling rivalries are still intense, albeit hidden within a facade of good will most of the time. As the story unfolds, we see the tragic past of the family, its emotional residue still spilling out to the present.

Shot in a naturalistic style (Robert Altman is acknowledged in the end credits), with a hand-held camera jolting its way through family gatherings, punctuated with non-script-like casual and spontaneous talks, the film makes us feel like we’re secretly prying into another family’s affairs.  But herein lies the merit of such an incisive look.  The truth is, if we get the chance to peep behind the curtains into other people’s homes, we would probably find how similar they are with our own.   We may not have to deal with a substance abuser, or have gone through similar tragedies, but we have to live with the common human emotions of hurt and disappointment, rivalries and anger.  We are encouraged when we see how others find redemption, and from the pit of negativism, rise up and go forward.

Anne Hathaway has shown that she can act outside of the sweet and charming feminine roles as in The Devil Wears Prada (2006) and Becoming Jane (2007).  Here in Rachel Getting Married, she has effectively delivered an excellent performance as a messed up substance abuser struggling to redeem herself.  The film could well lead her to other more character-driven roles in the future, or maybe even an acting nomination.

As for the film itself, the roving camera work is not for everybody.  With its almost 2 hours running time, seems like it needs a bit more work on editing and pacing to make it more appealing.  Do we need so many musical numbers?  Overlooking the melodramatic parts, the film is still effective in delivering a very human story.

~ ~ ~ Ripples

Update December 11:  Anne Hathaway has just been nominated for a Best Actress Award at the 2009 Golden Globes for her role in Rachel Getting Married.



Arti of Ripple Effects is the writer of the above original review, posted on September 30, 2008, here at https://rippleeffects.wordpress.com   ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

If you see this article on some other blogs or websites (as I have) without acknowledgment, citing, or linking back to Ripple Effects, then you know it has been copied without permission from the author.

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If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Creator of Ripple Effects, bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

7 thoughts on “Rachel Getting Married (2008)”

  1. I really want to see this one. Thanks for the review!!!

    Beware of the roving and shaky camera work, but other than that, it’s still a conventional take on a family story. Hope you’ll like it. Thanks for stopping by!



  2. Hello from Kent, OH — home of a small but very discerning (and may I say charming, good looking, and ever so affable as well) cadre of movie afficionadoes :o)

    Thanks for the spot-on review of Rachel — a movie I respected and admired, but can’t say I enjoyed. By the time it was over, I thought I had been run over by a truck. Talk about intense! But I did think the performances were excellent (especially A. Hathaway’s gut-wrenching effort) — and having lived through a couple of pretty intense family wedding experiences myself, albeit none quite like this!, I could really relate.

    I did get a kick out of the “dishwasher Nazi” scene. Haven’t you run into lots of obsessive compulsive people who will brook no changes to the way they load the dishwasher? I’ll be a lot of people recognized family skeletons with that one.

    I always enjoy reading your reviews — even if I don’t always send a comment. Thanks for your perceptive and critical eye for film.


    Hi Jay,

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment. Actually, comment or not, I’m just glad that I’ve readers in Kent OH, and yes, your comment does make my day!

    Anne Hathaway gets her nod for the Globes, which I think she deserves. But as for the movie overall, I feel it can be done better, maybe better editing. I’m ambivalent about the ‘naturalistic’ style of roving and hand-held camera work.

    If you have a chance, I highly recommend you see the film ‘I’ve Loved You So Long’. The reunion of sisters can have a very different perspective. You might like to read my review on that one and hopefully you can catch it in Kent, or maybe Cleveland.

    Again, thanks for leaving your personal response and please say Hi to all those in your movie cadre for me.



  3. i love ur comment on rachel gttin married.
    let’s not forget about the father. it almost too real for me. as we admit to the mess up sister or brother in our family contitution, lets remember the people who hurt the most ; the parent. the sacrifice a lot. like the father in this film. he lost many things, and yet he still giving out.
    Bravo to all fathers..


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