Rachel (DeWitt) is getting married (duh!), so her extended family are getting together to prepare for the nuptials. This includes her black-sheep sister Kym (Hathaway), a former addict whos not afraid to say whatevers on her mind. Will she derail events
Jonathan Demme is a hard man to pin down. Throughout his Hollywood career he’s flitted from genre to genre — dippy comedy (Married To the Mob), grim thriller (The Silence Of The Lambs), issuey tear-jerker (Philadelphia), concert documentary (Neil Young: Heart Of Gold). His latest, family drama Rachel Getting Married, at first seems entirely fresh ground again, but reveals itself to be a kind of amalgam of all those previous works. It has laughs, sadness, a handheld camera style, excellent music and a spiky, complex heroine worthy of Clarice Starling.
That heroine is not (as you might deduce from the title) Rachel, but Kym, a seriously off-the-rails model let out of rehab for her sister’s wedding. Kym is played by Anne Hathaway, who’s kicked back once before at her wholesome, doe-eyed image, by baring her breasts in Havoc. That movie — and her performance in it — have already been forgotten; no chance of this meeting the same fate. Kym is a peach of a role — she sleeps with the best man, fights with the maid of honour, quips, “You’re so thin, it’s like you’re Asian” — and Hathaway squeezes it for all the juice it’s worth, making this raw-nerved, narcissistic Tasmanian Devil not just believable, but somehow likable.
As things drift towards not only the ceremony but also a Big Revelation — a dark family secret is the reason for Kym’s current state — Demme mostly succeeds in steering the film away from the rocks of cliché. Vérité is the key. Altman-esque camerawork is fast becoming a cliché, with everything from Cloverfield to Che: Part 2 going handheld, but here it really works. The roving lens captures microscopic moments of human emotion and interaction, spending time with everyone from the African-American groom (TV On The Radio frontman Tunde Adebimpe) to Kym’s dad (a standout Bill Irwin, previously best known as Sesame Street’s Mr. Noodles).
On the other hand, the strand with the girls’ estranged mother, played by Debra Winger, is possibly a dysfunction too far, some parts taste slightly too sweet (was the Greek chorus of violin-players really necessary?), and the third-act wedding reception gets a little bit draggy. But that’s nitpicking — this is raw, intimate, vital drama, and Demme’s best film since Lambs.
One of Hollywoods forgotten masters and one of its brightest new actresses team for what could well be an Oscar wild card.