A movie about a radically dysfunctional family, in contrasting stupefyingly colorblind racial harmony with pending black kin as an interracial nuptial is prepped to happen, Rachel Getting Married does have one oddly designated outsider of color – namely Anne Hathaway as the black sheep of this warring upscale tribe. In an award worthy turn as an addict in recovery who shows up for her sister’s wedding, Hathaway is set up by director Jonathan Demme (Silence Of The Lambs) for a mass reaction of such dread and loathing, that she may as well have been Hannibal Lecter with lipstick.
Hathaway (The Princess Diaries, The Devil Wears Prada) is Kym, a sarcastically self-described ‘visiting sociopath’ who is on leave from the local drug rehab facility in a pricey Connecticut burb, to stop by the sprawling family home for sister Rachel’s (Rosemarie DeWitt) lavish wedding. Kym is also in search of a little unconditional love, not likely in an atmosphere where she’s most remembered for ‘passing out in bathtubs, and restraining orders.’ There’s also a rising level of unspoken tension beneath the composed family facade in anticipation of the wedding, around Kym’s connection to a family tragedy involving a younger brother. Meanwhile, their absentee mom (Debra Winger) drops by, barely aware that she’s even a part of this family, while their self-flagellating, emotional wreck of a dad (Bill Irwin) seems to have assumed all parental roles for the duration.
There are devastating scenes of wrenching family turmoil, when Kym and Mom literally slug it out, and a stunned dinner table confessional where Kym tearfully testifies to the many assembled wedding guests, the consuming guilt, despair and family shame she’s been carrying around all these years. And a terrible sorrow all the more dramatically overpowering in the likely not coincidental context of the 2002 drug related death of Demme’s young nephew, filmmaker Ted Demme.
Rachel Getting Married can be a weary ordeal for audiences, as it veers into an odd fusion of unrelieved gabby melodrama and blissed out home movies format. The single saving grace is Hathaway, who ironically disrupts all the good cheer surrounding her, and inevitably rains on everybody’s giddy parade.
Something old (cinema verite), something new (combo Buddhist-African matrimonial ambiance), something borrowed (Robert Altman) and something blue (the whole family). The Devil Wears Bridesmaid Garb.
Sony Pictures Classics
2 1/2 stars