Kym (Anne Hathaway, wow), a recovering drug addict, is given a leave of absence for a few days to attend her sister's wedding. Her sister, Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) is a highly educated professional woman completing her PHD is psychology. The whole family is home for the ceremony, as well as close friends. It will be lavish, beautiful and perfect, just like Rachel wants it to be. There's only one potential problem: Kym, who has a rather strained relationship with almost everyone around her and who tends to spoil the fun wherever she goes with her abrasive attitude. It doesn't help of course that in Kym's past, a terrible tragedy tied to her drug consuming ways occurred which severally scarred the entire family. It could be a long few days at the wedding.
Rachel Getting Married showcases what is, in this viewer's humble opinion, some of the best writing and acting to have graced the silver screen all year. Early on, in the car ride home from the rehab center, Kym let's it be known that she would like to see their mother before the ceremony. Her father (divorced from said mother), played by Bill Irwin, uncomfortably says that he isn't so sure about that. Rachel's reaction is that of disappointment. On paper that sounds pretty normal, but the actors pull off that dialogue sequence with such subtlety, such realism, that it makes for a great scene. Right from the get go, the viewer is given a hint that something isn't right, that emotions have been bruised at some time in the past and that the healing process hasn't fully taken effect yet.
When Kym and Rachel finally meet up back home, the initial reaction, of course, is smiles, giggles and compliments. However, only minutes later does it becomes apparent that Rachel has some reservations about Kym as well. This is compounded by Rachel friend, who makes no attempt at hiding her own dislike for Kym. As the hours go by Kym realizes what her family really thinks of her. Some people, like her father, play the part with more gentleness and subtlety. Others, such Rachel, are a bit more, how should I put it, outspoken about what's wrong with her. And so emotions get complicated on the most important two days of Rachel's life.
The writing is acting, as I mentioned previously, are top notch. None of the discussions ever feel false, or shoe horned in just to make a point or to keep raising the stakes for the sake of it. There are real discussions taking place. It's difficult to find ensemble cast films where everyone is firing on all cylinders like they are here. Anne Hathaway demonstrates that she really can act. Her Kym is in such an emotionally dysfunctional status that even the viewer can be forgiven to side with her family. But there is obviously some good in her. She wants good love, but the words that come out of her mouth always seem to bring resentfulness uopn her. Is she a lost cause, a soul tarnished forever by the devastating lifestyle of the junkie? Perhaps, perhaps not. I like to think it's the latter, for all I know I could be wrong. Rosemarie DeWitt and Bill Irwin, who both have their own manners of showing either their disappointment or frustration with Kym, are both equally brilliant.
Much as been said about the hand held camera style of filmmaking, so I won't spend too much time on it, but suffice it to say that it works wonders here. It really feels as if Demme has obtained exclusive access into the world of the family, on its most important day, and has invited the viewer to tag along while things deteriorate. This is the most documentary-type fictional film I think I ever seen. Because of that genuine quality to the picture, it makes the arguments all the more difficult to bear. And I mean that in the good sense. Solid script and solid cinematography altogether.
As a final note, I'd like to point out that the wedding ceremony itself, which if I'm not mistaken lasts a good 15-20 minutes of running time, is worth the price of admission. Food, laughter, a tent with samba, hip hop, light rock. I wish I had been there on the set!
In conclusion, I would make it clear that from the perspective of script, acting and cinematography, Rachel Getting Married is one of the best films of 2008. Of course having not seen it on home video, I can only suspect (although I'm pretty sure about this) that seeing it in the theater enhances the experience. Sitting in that dark room with all my attention focused on Rachel, Kym and everyone else involved in the wedding was intense, funny, frustrating, sad, thoughtful and in the end, well worth my time and money. I sincerely hope it will be the same case with you.