F.I.L.M. of the Week (August 19, 2011)

19 08 2011

Anne Hathaway can do so much better than the romantic rut she’s leading herself into. The actress seems to have an incredibly fiery, passionate base of detractors, something that I really don’t understand. Clearly they haven’t seen “Rachel Getting Married,” Jonathan Demme’s 2008 film that is my pick for the “F.I.L.M. of the Week.”

Hathaway, in a stunning performance that deserved the Oscar nomination it received, plays not the title character but rather her sister, Kym, who is on furloughs for the weekend from rehab. She’s unlikable with a prickly exterior, something portrayed with gusto by the normally charming actress. Yet underneath her thick-skin lies a vulnerable and hurting person, still reeling from tragedy earlier in her life. Caught at a crossroads between moving on and accepting responsibility, she stands uncertainly and without confidence to face a world colored by the consequences of her actions.

Hathaway brings such a vibrant and visible contrast of these two sides of Kym to the screen, fully realizing her from her flaws to her fears to her love to her guilt. It’s one of those miraculous performances by an actress that carries such tremendous emotional nuance that it continues to reward those who dare to take the gut-wrenching roller-coaster ride with the movie again.

What makes “Rachel Getting Married” even better is that every aspect of the film is on par with Hathaway’s towering performance.  Jonathan Demme’s direction is impeccable, capturing the intensity of every moment with a fly-on-the-wall sensibility.  The tension and the mood is right in every moment, although I will give my one caveat in this glowing review: fast forward through the wedding reception dancing.  It’s a bloated sequence that offers a lot of excess with a few cutaway shots to Kym.  Surely it couldn’t have been that way in the brilliant script by Jenny Lumet, director Sydney’s daughter, which paints a portrait of a family torn asunder by a disaster yet forced to put aside the past and come together for a wedding.

The bride, Rachel, is burdened on what should be the happiest weekend of her life by her sister Kym’s re-entry into society, something that comes with many bumps.  With the skilled Rosemarie DeWitt behind the wheel, Rachel weathers these events with increasing emotional fervor until she reaches a breaking point.  It’s a tour de force to rival Hathaway’s work, snubbed of a deserving Oscar nomination – and maybe even a win.  She’s pitch perfect throughout as she tries to maintain her happiness and sanity in the presence of the self-proclaimed “God of Death.”

The sisters are also estranged from their mother Abby, played by Debra Winger, whose performance epitomizes art imitating life as the actress herself has been practically estranged from serious cinema for over a decade.  Her emotional distance echoes her reaction to the divisive family tragedy as she has tried to totally move on and forget the whole thing.  Winger’s quiet character is very mysterious and, like Hathaway’s Kym, holds much to be discovered in her work the second time around.  While Abby may not be easily embraceable, neither is the movie.  But the difference between the two is that “Rachel Getting Married” as a whole is truly endearing, a powerful portrait of the power of love and family through countless issues.

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4 responses

23 08 2011
CMrok93

I loved Hathaway in this film and commands almost every scene she is in. Demme’s direction is also very good because it doesn’t go for any sentimental/cheesy hits in the script, he just tells the story like it is. Good Stuff Marshall!

23 08 2011
Steven Flores

This is among one of my favorite films of the last decade. It’s also the film that confirmed for me that Anne Hathaway is a much better actress than a lot of the mainstream stuff she’s been given. She wasn’t afraid to be bitchy or mean in that film. That’s what I loved about that performance.

25 08 2011
Andrew K.

Hathaway is good here, but I’m really less than charmed by her generally and for me the real star of this movie – as the title suggests – is Rosemarie DeWitt’s Rachel. It’s an astonishing performance, especially taking into context that she’s really just playing the “perfect daughter” she brings a lot of depth to the performance.

25 08 2011
Marshall

I could write tomes about DeWitt, and I sometimes mull over whether she’s actually better than Hathaway here. But alas, with Anne Hathaway’s name being in the spotlight more with “One Day” being released – and providing the impetus for this post – I chose to focus on her.

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