There aren't too many people who have not been the discomforted witnesses to family dysfunction and strife laid wide open during two of the most frequent family reunion occasions - weddings and funerals. Depending upon your sensibilities in real life, it could be a great diversionary source of entertainment, an excuse to leave early or simply a cross to be endured during the event.
Rachel Getting Married has a caustic but thoroughly watchable recipe for family acrimony against the backdrop of nuptials - sibling rivalry, self-centered conceit and a long suppressed family tragedy. The fact that, surprisingly, it is an interracial marriage that has brought Rachel's family together along with their troubled emotional baggage has virtually nothing to do with the trouble that ensues. The African American groom and his family simply join the movie's viewers as the front and center spectators of the protagonist family's non-stop travails.
The central figure in Rachel Getting Married is not the bride-to-be, but her sister Kym, played by Anne Hathaway. The movie opens with Kym getting discharged from a drug/alcohol rehab, just in time to join her family a few days before Rachel's wedding. Hathaway deftly nails the role with a realistic portrayal of a person whose completed rehab experience is only the beginning in addressing her character shortcoming issues. In this movie, Hathaway gives one of the best performances of her screen career.
Mainstream movie aficionados only saw a limited version of Hathaway's acting range in her turn as a good girl-next-door fashion magazine assistant opposite Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada. Hathaway proves in her current role (as she also has in lesser known films such as Havoc) that she can play a down and dirty young woman with ugly issues.
In Rachel Getting Married, Kym is self-absorbed and still raw from her rehab time when she is immersed in the family's mixture of nuptial celebration and caustic family symmetry, the latter of which she is a prime contributor. Although Hathaway's character clearly craves attention, fortunately the movie's plot is not all about her. In fact, the troubled family chemistry is given poignancy by the issues of other family members, Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt), their father Paul (Bill Irwin) who has remarried, as well as the appearance of their mother (played by a wonderfully older Debra Winger) - all of whom are undergirded by strong performances.
With Kym's arrival several days before the wedding at her father's house, old family wounds are opened, giving rise to arguments over paternal favoritisms, Kym's troubled life, vintage resentments, all accompanied by the companion awkwardness that thrives on the existence of outsiders to take it all in. A past family tragedy gives more insight into the dysfunction that is uniquely theirs.
The conflicts feel uncomfortably real and are staged subtle skill by director Jonathan Demme, who apparently had the directorial good sense to allow the actors to establish their own dialogue rhythm during the quarrelsome scenes. The film is the first produced screenplay by Jenny Lumet, daughter of acclaimed director Sidney Lumet and granddaughter of actress Lena Horne.
The 111-minute movie is rated R for profanity and brief sexual content.