Growing hatred coupled with unconditional love, internal and physical pain followed by utter joy, precious laughter alongside overbearing anger—these are just a few of the raw emotions that “Rachel Getting Married” produces. This direct and stripped-down experience delves into the realm of dysfunctional lives and invites viewers into an experience that may not be their own, but helps them understand the plight of others.
With director Jonathan Demme’s vision and the beautiful performances by the cast, we are given the chance to live out the deep-rooted emotions of tough family drama while watching the characters unveil their true forms to us. The result? A masterful piece of original art that expresses familial love, hurt, sadness and forgiveness.
The film takes place during the few chaotic days surrounding the wedding of Rachel and Sydney in a beautiful, suburban area of Connecticut. What should be an elated celebration of family members turns into an uncomfortable and, at times, downright depressing showcase as Rachel’s younger sister Kym (Anne Hathaway) is furloughed from rehab for the festivities.
Kym immediately illustrates a character that holds a bottomless storage for guilt, self-loathing and depression. The moment she appears on screen, her deep brown eyes, framed by jagged bangs and topped with a semi-permanent cigarette in her mouth, captivates the audience with her mysterious aura. Scarred by drug abuse and a horrible tragedy that she was responsible for, Kym is left with a damaged personality of self-pitying that results in a constant need for recognition.
Her need to be the center of attention during Rachel’s “special day” leaves her older sister bitter and at times, cruel to Kym. However, the rising tension—between the sisters, their father, divorced mom and Kym’s internal war—provides a climax that is raw and brutally expressive. Although Demme does a wonderful job at sympathizing for Kym’s character, she’s easy to hate at times. However, with deeper unraveling, there is an unknown yet redeeming quality that continues to captivate the audience.
Instead of a clichéd attempt at portraying family drama, Demme provides an organic theme of dependency in varying ways. With documentary-like cinematography, one gets a sense of loose conversation and an authentic flow of events. Nothing looks rehearsed, as camera angles show the perspective from someone who is just a part of the story. Awkward moments of silence show a level of reality that exists in everyday conversation, and growing tension to the point of breaking is displayed successfully and consistently in every single character of the film.
Hathaway’s performance as Kym is unexpected but absolutely extraordinary. Steering away from the cookie-cutter and light-hearted roles of “Enchanted,” “The Princess Diaries” and “The Devil Wears Prada,” Hathaway provides an exceptional invitation into a character filled with darkness and intense sorrow. Her mysteriously inviting eyes matched with her on-the-verge quivering lips provide an eerie yet superb depiction of all the fragile and sad elements of Kym’s world. Yet, her constant devotion and dependency on unconditional familial love offers a sympathetic and forgiving sense of familiarity. The audience may not understand the emotional turmoil that unravels in this film, but with her masterful presentation, viewers can still relate in some way.
“Rachel Getting Married” is exactly what a dark comedy should be. Scenes of deep-rooted sorrow bring physical heartache to viewers, but moments of genuine laughter provide a perfect balance that doesn’t make the film “too dark,” “too deep,” or “too corny.” To be able to successfully match completely opposite characteristics and emotions in such a way displays pure craftsmanship by Demme and produces a must-see film for all viewers.