Movies about weddings usually carry an unspoken guarantee. Much like a Meryl Streep film, you know it’s going to be good. Muriel’s Wedding (1994), Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) and Mamma Mia (2008), were all box office sledgehammers.But Rachel Getting Married? Ugh.
Director Jonathan Demme has delivered knock-outs like Silence of the Lambs (1991), Philadelphia (1993) and The Manchurian Candidate (2004). His latest and supposedly greatest Rachel Getting Married was filmed in 33 days and opened the 65th Venice International Film Festival.
Jenny Lumet, a juniour high drama teacher, daughter of Sidney Lumet and granddaughter of Lena Horne, wrote the screenplay. Demme loved Jenny’s “flagrant disregard for the rules of formula and lack of concern for making characters likeable in the conventional sense.” No kidding.
Anne Hathaway, who plays Kym, the troubled, just out of rehab Buchman family member, was nominated for Best Actress (the Oscar went into the proper hands of Kate Winslet for The Reader).The eponymous bride, Rachel, was handled boldly and beautifully by Rosemarie DeWitt, with more patience and grace under fire than I could swallow. When her whining whippet of a sister (Kym) comes home for the wedding, the sibling battle begins, and rightfully so. The tension between the sisters is so palpable and uncomfortable that I found myself wanting to smack Kym with at least one stinging slap across the face. Dinner parties became hunting grounds for the sisters, and the house full of captive wedding guests allows Kym ample opportunity to exercise her rehab humour and spur on yelling matches. She steals more attention from Rachel than a NFL half-time streaker.
And there is so much yelling that weekend of the wedding. It reminded me of a t-shirt I saw a guy wearing on the subway in Toronto last year: “I’m not yelling, I’m Italian!” Apparently some families yell as a way of expressing their love for each other, this is new to me.
It comes as no surprise that Rachel Getting Married sits at 86% on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer. I left my seat twice to make popcorn and grab another beer (slow moving movies = faster drinking apparently). Usually I ask Wanda to hit ‘pause’ but I was secretly hoping that she would accidentally press ‘fast forward’ on the remote. One hour into the movie I asked if she wanted to stop it and watch something on the Food Network. “No, we’ve watched it this far.” And so we twitched and cringed to the bitter end, waiting for their estranged mother, Debra Winger, to possibly steal the show, waiting for the big reveal of something. Like the explanation of the emotional worms eating at dear old Kym, explaining her slap-worthy behaviour and rants.
But, that explanation didn’t fully come with acceptance until I emailed Rona Maynard, telling her that I had just watched the dreadful Rachel Getting Married. A reader on Rona’s blog “Let’s Talk” had suggested the movie on a recent posting on the theme of healing estrangements (http://www.ronamaynard.com/index.php?the-gentle-art-of-healing-an-estrangement&letters-from-rona). The reader recommended the movie as she felt it deftly handled the squirmy topic of family rifts and resolve “without being manipulative.” Rona replied almost instantly to my email.
“Hmmm…I’m the one who loved Rachel Getting Married. Saw it twice, in fact—and on the second viewing felt more compassion toward all characters, including Hathaway’s.” Rona went on to explain that sometimes a “dangerously enmeshed family avoids burningly important truths whle stepping uninvited into everyone else’s business. Kym is what family therapists call ‘the identified patient’(scapegoat).” SPOILER HERE– “They can’t bear to talk about the dead brother, so she provides a convenient distraction.”
And so, my fiery backlash at Hathaway was gently downgraded. I will have to watch the movie again with Rona’s slant on scapegoat-ism and Kym being the true victim in a movie that makes her seem like the villain.
But before that I will rent Margot at the Wedding because Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Jason Leigh exhibit sibling rivalry at its best. The wit and clever dialogue had me rooting for both sisters instead of dividing my allegiance like Rachel Getting Married.
You decide. Or, if you’ve decided, let me know if you’d watch Rachel get married again.
Trailer for Margot at the Wedding:
Rachel Getting Married: