Something New: Rachel Getting Married

There is no great twist in this story but still be aware that there be spoilers in this review.

Anyone with a Netflix subscription knows that the movies you find on it can be a bit touch and go, especially here in Ireland.  I decided to give Rachel Getting Married a shot as it was nominated for (and won) lots of awards and featured on many a critics “Best of” lists the year it was released.

Rachel Getting Married

Rachel Getting Married

Directed by Johnathan Demme, the story follows Kym (Anne Hathaway), an addict who leaves rehab to go home for her sisters wedding which is taking place in her family home. Kym is an ex-model who has been struggling with her addictions since her teens. These addictions and bad behaviours worsened after the death of her brother, for which she was responsible for. Kym’s life crisis is set against the backdrop of a painfully middle class Connecticut household, where they drink Pellegrino, live in a huge detached house and eat Indian food while listening to gospel music.

The first thing I noticed was the movie has some really interesting camera angles and styles. There are long awkward drawn out shots with low angles which felt really intense.  At other times it looked like a home camera which intensified the joy of the happy wedding scenes and the eeriness Kym wandering through her home all alone. They were artfully done and at times you would not even notice the transitions as they were done so smoothly.

Despite the heavy emotional baggage that everyone is carrying around the script has some funny one-liners. These are executed perfectly throughout espcially by Hathaway and Rosemary Dewitt (Rachel). An example was a shop assistant asking Kym “didn’t I see you on cops?”  or Kym and Rachel discussing their weight by saying “swear to God you are puking again” and “you are so thin you look like a Asian”. This demonstrated the irreverent part of their relationship and was a nice element to see included.

As strained as Kym and Rachel’s relationship was there are times of genuine love and tenderness between them. For example when Rachel helps Kym to bathe after her crash. This testified to Rachel’s strength as Kim had put her through hell and back,  not just in life but over the past few days. Maybe the director was trying to show that love conquers all but I didn’t buy it entirely.  The scene where they first meet in the movie and they gossip on the bed like teenagers was much more believable and it captured a type of teen giddiness which was needed among the heavy plot points.

Kym (Anne Hathaway)

Kym (Anne Hathaway)

Some of the most poignant stories came from the Narcotics Anonymous meetings.  Here people stood up and told their stories. The director did not hold back, we even get to see Kym peeing into a cup and it had a great emotional impact without glamorising it.

These types of treatment programmes have high failure rates and it was sad to think that some of these people may go back to their reliance on illicit substances. Yes they were fictional in this context, but it does reflect real life. The higher power element which was very present in the representation of the meetings is often blamed as it takes the responsibility away from the individual and surrenders their agency to someone else, much like they did with their substances of choice.

As a side note to addiction do not watch this movie if you are trying to quite smoking. Kym puffs away the entire time, even over dinner and it will leave you craving a smoke.

The backdrop to the movie is really pretty. The wedding has an India theme so the dresses, suits and decorations are colourful. They even have a bright blue cake. There are pink and orange garlands and lights everywhere decorating the picturesque house and garden. The guests are an interesting bunch too as Sidney (Rachel’s husband to be) is a musician so the house is filled with people signing and playing instruments.

Rachel and Sidney

Rachel and Sidney

Despite the title Kym is very much the main character and she doe not let us forget it! She is a moody moody individual and we learn why as the story develops (the death, drugs etc.) I have read reviews of the movie which say despite Kym’s attitude and behaviour she is still likeable and I have to say I disagree. I recognise that, as her mother states, “it is hard for everyone to know your troubles”  and that can feel most pronounced at an event full of you nearest and dearest but her behaviour was not excusable. Examples of her bad behaviour included picking a fight over not being the chief bride’s maid (despite not being present to help organise the event), throwing a temper tantrum when Rachel announces some big news, telling lies about molestation and eating disorders and she made a really awkward rehab joke laced speech which talked about herself rather than the couple. At one point Rachel loses her temper and confronts Rachel about being selfish and I could not blame her. Kym even tried to blame her mother for leaving her brother in her care! By the end I didn’t care for her as a character mostly because of the way she treated her family and especially Rachel.

The main thing that I personally did not like about this movie was the length of certain scenes. The speeches were touching, funny and heart warming but they went on and on and lost their impact. It was the same with the wedding party, watching the guests dance to hip-hop, jazz, Bollywood  pop and all the rest was fun at first then just became unnecessary. It really dragged at parts and felt like either filler, or more likely, arty pretentiousness as this movie took itself very seriously. There is only so much middle-class partying I could watch.

It was a real pity as I felt  there were certain emotional family scenes which could have been expanded on. A discussion about why Kym took drugs in the first place or their Mum explaining why she drifted away and was so distant. I also could have done with a longer shot of Rachel and Kym making up because if my sister had pulled a stunt like that the night before my wedding where she temper tantrumed into the chief bridesmaid’s I would have more to say before I could forgive her.

Overall it was a pleasant movie with a charming atmosphere that teetered on the pretentious  It lacked that extra bit of depth which would have helped me understand the characters more and left me a bit cold.

You can purchase Rachel Getting Married from Amazon in Blue Ray and DVD:
Rachel Getting Married [DVD] [2009]
Rachel Getting Married [Blu-ray] [2009][Region Free]

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