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Thursday, March 19, 2009


(Pic:Anne Hathaway and Rosemarie DeWitt as sisters Kym and Rachel)

Chaos, crises and conflict in new film by Jonathan Demme. (Review by Billy Suter, courtesy of The Mercury)

Mutterings overheard from some leaving a matinee performance of Rachel Getting Married, the acclaimed new film by Jonathan Demme, suggested some people had been anticipating something altogether different.

So let’s put minds at ease immediately – Rachel Getting Married, notwithstanding its cheerful title and starring wide-eyed and sunny-smiling Anne Hathaway, is far removed from the froth and fluff of Hathaway’s earlier successes, The Devil Wears Prada and The Princess Diaries.

Penned by novice scriptwriter Jenny Lumet (daughter of director Sidney), the film is a drama of chaos, crises and conflict, of anger and hurt, pain and guilt, regrets and resentments, the film is a dark and broody drama, but it is not without humour and flourishes of fun. Hathaway has never been better, the film affording her her first meaty adult role, which led to her receiving an Oscar nomination this year.

Demme, who gave us The Silence of the Lambs, is also on form, unfolding his tale simply and sparingly, like a documentary, peeping here, glancing there, exploiting natural light often, sometimes employing hand-held cameras and making novel use of music, rather than a formal score.

Hathaway is the principal character, the self-absorbed and flamboyant Kym, the Rachel of the title (an excellent Rosemarie DeWitt) being her older sister.

Rachel’s colourful garden wedding at the home of her dad (Bill Irwin) and stepmum (Anna Deaveare Smith) has allowed Kym a weekend away from the rehab centre where she has been off drink and drugs for nine months, marking her best success yet in a decade-long battle with substance abuse. But as much as she is relieved to escape rehab for a short time, it’s not all plain sailing for chain-smoker Kym.

The awkwardness and embarrassment of her family members is sometimes glaring, and the tension between Kym and Rachel grows by the hour as old wounds and unfinished business are uncovered during the wedding preparations and build-up to the big event itself. As this drama unfolds, so we discover the reasons for the family dysfunctions, the cause of all the pain and guilt, the reason for the divorce of Kym’s folks (long-time-no-see Debra Winger appears late in the film for a standout performance as Kym and Rachel’s mother).

The film may be a little too talky and slow for some, but provides rich pickings for anyone appreciating good ensemble work and some stellar individual performances.

By the way, music fans might care to note that the role of Rachel’s groom, Sidney – who does a wonderful a cappella rendition of a Neil Young song – is played by Tunde Adebimpe, lead singer of the rock group TV on the Radio. (Rating 7/10) – Billy Suter