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Love, Honor, Dysfunction

rsz_rachel-getting-married(2)NEWAnne Hathaway commands the screen in ‘Rachel Getting Married’

It’s not always fun to witness a bevy of messy family dynamics unfold on screen—most people have enough of their own dilemmas to take care of at home—but director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia, Neil Young: Heart of Gold) manages to deliver the bittersweet realities plaguing one family in Rachel Getting Married with such grace it’s hard not to be drawn into his spell—and care about the outcome of his characters’ dilemmas.

Demme’s work here is sublime. He offers a rich, powerful odyssey about one woman trying to come to terms with her past, her unstable emotions and the family she so desperately wants to connect with. That woman is Kym, played to winning ends by Anne Hathaway. (Watch for an Oscar nomination.)

Kym leaves rehab for the weekend to attend her sister, Rachel’s (Rosemarie DeWitt) wedding. From the minute she arrives back home, she’s at a tug-of-war with her emotions.  It’s acceptance she craves. And love, too. Toss in a thirst for understanding and forgiveness and Kym is walking TNT. But what Kym wants is downright universal. One can hardly blame her, but how she goes about attaining all the love she believes she needs sends a curious ripple effect through all the wedding festivities.

We’re not privy to Kym’s real dilemma at first. All that we know is that she did something, it effected her and her family in a major way, and now that some time has passed, everybody seems to have dealt with the fact that they’ve dealt with it as best they can.

They’re in for a big surprise.

Demme purposely films this moving wedding portrait with detached vigilance. Often using handheld cameras, he creates a personal experience and an opportunity for his audience to feel as if they’ve actually been invited to the wedding. In a way, he makes us feel as if we’re part of the family, too. (On some deeper level, we probably are.) Each of scenes build so wonderfully upon the previous. I’d compare the experience to an opera, where you can feel the powerful crescendos heading your way.

One monumental moment involves Kym and the acceptance speech she delivers at the wedding rehearsal dinner. From the get-go it’s evident that for as much internal work as Kym has been doing, there’s so much more to do. The scene is one of the best in the movie—an uncomfortable, tragic diatribe laced with inside 12-step jokes, desperation and a bundle of raw nerves that it will make your neck hair stand on end. And Hathaway is mesmerizing in every second of it.

There are two other scenes that warrant a mention. The first one takes place in a 12-step meeting where Kym shares her dilemma. This isn’t your average “share.” What Kym experienced in the past is downright heartbreaking and while it was the result of her own addicted state, one can see the huge emotional toll it’s taken on her soul.

The other scene happens between Kym and her mother (Debra Winger). When Kym prods her mother about the “event” that tore the family in two, her mother doesn’t want to deal with it. It only takes one more question from Kym to send everything spinning out of control. Winger is one of the best actresses in the business. Clearly, her long Hollywood sabbatical didn’t change that. What happens next sends the film rolling in new direction, one that finds Kym, quite by accident perhaps, coming to terms with her own life and her place in within her family’s.

As for the actual wedding—yes, we do get to see that—it’s a remarkable experience to witness. You can’t help but wonder if Demme is sending us a powerful message. He seems to be saying that no matter how screwed up we all can be, at any given time, somehow, at the end of the day, anything can be tempered with love—but not fixed.

Embrace this well-crafted gem.


Rated R. At Nickelodeon Theatres. (*** ½)

 

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