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Rachel Getting Married

Posted by martinteller on October 20, 2012

Kym (Anne Hathaway) is a recovering addict, allowed out of rehab for a weekend to the attend the wedding of her sister Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt).  Preparations for the happy event are tainted by lingering conflicts between the sisters and their divorced parents: the overly concerned father (Bill Irwin, a.k.a. the “other guy” in the “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” video) and the distant mother (Debra Winger).  Kym tries to be supportive, but her self-centered nature wreaks emotional havoc in almost any situation.

This movie reminded me of a slightly better version of Pieces of April.  We have a young girl at the center, attractive but the “black sheep” of the family.  We know she’s the black sheep because she smokes, has tattoos, and keeps a Misfits poster on her wall.  She’s trying to connect with her family on a special occasion.  The proceedings are decidedly multicultural.  White family and black family getting together, friends and guests of all races, Indian-themed wedding, reception featuring samba, reggae, hip-hop, jazz and whatever Robyn Hitchcock does.

A note on the multiculturalism of the thing.  It’s a lovely ideal, and hell, I won’t even call it an ideal because that implies some farfetched utopian fantasy.  There’s nothing unrealistic about it.  Like writer Jenny Lumet (daughter of director Sidney and granddaughter of Lena Horne), I grew up in a fairly multicultural environment and thought little of it.  But it does feel rather contrived and overdone.  No reason is given for the Indian twist on the affair, despite the fact that none of the participants seem to be of that culture.  Ganesh and Shiva are never mentioned.  It’s as if Demme is daring us to be racially insensitive enough to question it.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to see such a harmonious cultural blend.  But it seems a bit calculated to me.  Maybe that’s on me, maybe that’s my natural cynicism getting in the way.  I can’t help picturing a casting director somewhere saying “Okay, now we need a couple of Asians, and a guy who looks vaguely Native American.”

Other bits here and there also felt contrived to me.  The dream discussion when we first see Kym and Rachel together, for instance, came off as phony, shorthand for establishing a history and closeness between the sisters.  The “dishwasher” scene, setting up a loose, fun moment that can be handily punctured by a reminder of tragedy.

But there is some genuine insight in the film, and on the whole it’s pretty effective.  I don’t think Hathaway was great, but she was good enough to get me invested in her character despite her often grating flaws.  There were several moments when I was moved, truly choking up as a character reveals his or her pain, or reconciles an old hurt.  If the film celebrates an ideal of ethnic harmony, it still allows for less than ideal human relationships.  It’s not as harsh as The Celebration (which Demme’s immediate, handheld camera evokes, among other Dogme 95 films) but it doesn’t end with all conflicts resolved, either.  Rating: Good (75)


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