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"Rachel Getting Married"

Directed by Jonathan Demme.
Written by Jenny Lumet.
Starring Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Bill Irwin & Debra Winger.
Release Year:  2008
Review Date:  12/7/08


Now that some media outlets and various arts circles are releasing their thoughts on the best films and performances of this year, it has made my life a little easier as I try to close out the year with some movies that might actually not suck.  "Rachel Getting Married" is one of those films; no, it does not suck!

Anne Hathaway stars as Kym, who is just leaving rehab somewhere in Connecticut to return home for the weekend of her older sister Rachel's wedding.  Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) doesn't really love her hooked-on-prescription-drugs sister, and is still bitter--obviously--that Kym was the one driving when the family car went off a bridge, killing their younger brother Ethan.  Rachel is having her wedding at her father's home in Stamford; Dad (Bill Irwin) had problems of his own and is now divorced from Abby (Debra Winger), another person who seems distant from the family but has agreed to come to Rachel's wedding.  Amidst all of this family strife is the actual wedding; Rachel is marrying a musician named Sidney (Tunde Adebimpe), who thankfully is completely and totally drama-free.

Hathaway's over-the-top performance as the attention-needy Kym will probably draw plenty of hardware when awards are announced; personally, I thought it was good, but it didn't blow me away since this character has been done countless times in countless ways before.  (So countless that I can't think of a single one right now!)  In terms of performances, the leads here are all great, and even the bit players, like Sidney's best friend and best man Kieran, played by Mather Zickel, are very good, and I really wouldn't be shocked if Irwin locks down plenty of notice for his role as the family patriarch.

The film's problem is not the acting; no, the film's problem is the multiple sequences where everyone goes for the dramatic jugular in-between figuring out seat assignments, catering, loading the dishwasher (a great scene) or the constant violin playing on the family's front porch.  When "Rachel Getting Married" is about the wedding, the rehearsal dinner, the nuptials, and the fun dance reception sequences, I really loved this movie.  The chemistry and camaraderie between the cast members is truly memorable, and I thought that this was the best part of the movie by far.  My impression is that this cast hung out a LOT between takes, before shooting began and probably after the film wrapped principal photography.  Some stuff you can't fake; in this movie, you will love how well the performers work together.

When the movie is about the next dramatic event in (mainly Kym's) life, "Rachel Getting Married" is a mixed bag.  On the one hand, you get into Rachel's dilemma about having her aloof sister back for a weekend where Rachel wants to be the star for once.  On the other hand, you almost won't believe the sequence mid-film where Rachel announces to everyone that she's pregnant.  I'm sitting here with this look to no one of utter shock, like "who in the hell thought this would work?" or "would Kym really do that?" or "I need a freakin' drink!"  Naturally, at some point, Kym is allowed back behind the wheel of a car, and this led to even more what-the-fuckness for me.

Overall, this is a good movie and deserving of some buzz.  It's also nice to see that Jonathan Demme still knows how to direct a motion picture; the guy literally made "The Silence of the Lambs" and "Philadelphia" in '91 and '93, respectively, and completely fell off the radar (I think there were some health issues thrown in there for good measure).  Here, Demme is back in command of his performers and--as a man who locked up Oscars for himself, Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, and Tom Hanks back in the day--maybe he'll be able to grab some hardware for Hathaway and his new cast.

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09