Anne Hathaway stars in Rachel Getting Married, a depressing drama that marks the actress' transformation from comedy starlet to Oscar-worthy phenom. Just a few years ago, she was a grinning, wide-eyed girl in The Princess Diaries, and now... this.
Despite what the previews and concept may suggest, Rachel Getting Married is not a dark comedy. Yes, it's about a former junkie who, just out of rehab, shows up for his sister's wedding only to inadvertently mess it up at every possible moment. Yes, Hathaway plays a quick-talking, sarcastic addict who attends AA, smokes and is just an all-around bitter person. And yes, the wedding party is full of odd and interesting characters. It sounds like the perfect premise for a comedy, but no... Rachel Getting Married is like an intentionally unfunny version of The Office, cringe-inducing in a painful way. Picture Michael from The Office saying a bunch of inappropriate, awkward things, only they aren't funny, aren't meant to be, and are based in the context of a serious drama. Ouch.
Rachel Getting Married is one of the depressing movies released in 2008. Scene by scene the movie is not particularly saddening, but as a whole, it is emotionally draining - almost to ridiculous levels. Hathaway's self-destructive behavior is difficult to handle at times, and this both works in the film's favor and against it. The movie is sometimes hard to watch, yet it's like a bad car accident - you can't look away. It plays like a snapshot of these people's lives, which has been filled with tragedy and drama for years. There isn't a sense of resolution, only a longing for momentary peace.
The movie doesn't always work. At almost two hours, it feels overly long and full of multiple endings. I would have been quite content had the picture ended at the cake-cutting scene, yet director Jonathan Demme drags the picture on for another half hour. It's a nice-looking half hour, but a completely unnecessary one. He takes us step by step through the progression of the reception, through the various stages of music and dancing and celebration. After a while, it just is tedious. Furthermore, many of the supporting characters are annoying. It's not that the actors are bad - in fact, the acting is top notch - but this wedding is so out of the norm that it's hard to completely engage with the characters. So many of the relatives and friends seem to have musical or entertainment talent, and Demme is determined to show us each one of these talents. I've never seen a wedding like this, and probably never will. Individually, each character - even if they're relatively nameless - is developed and realistic, and yet as a whole they are surrealistic. Demme tried to make the picture rich with character and events, yet overdid it.
Despite the film's faults, Rachel Getting Married is one of the best-acted films of the year. Anne Hathaway is absolutely amazing, all but guaranteeing her an Oscar nomination. Her performance is breathtaking, engaging, sad and disturbing all at once. This is a career-changing role for her. The rest of the cast backs her up; Rosemarie DeWitt and Bill Irwin as the title character and her father are especially notable. Still, despite my complaints about the characters, each actor, no matter how small, delivers an excellent performance; the casting director should be complimented for filling in Demme's vision.
Rachel Getting Married is a good movie, but it is emotionally draining, and not always to a positive effect. Demme could have trimmed out a few unnecessary scenes, too. But, regardless, the acting is superb, especially by Anne Hathaway. Oscars, here we come.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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