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    Rachel Getting Married

    A giant leap for Anne's kind

    Jonathan Demme's closely-observed dysfunctional drama features a dynamite turn by Anne Hathaway.


    Anne Hathaway has never really done much for me. Probably the first time I remember seeing her was in "The Princess Diaries" (although she'd been in 13 episodes of "Get Real" on TV before that, playing a character named Meghan Green). I didn't exactly notice her in "'Diaries," since that film was such a rags-to-riches dog, and the very doggishness of the entire production tended to distract one from whatever Hathaway might have contributed to the piece, good or bad.

    Directed by: Jonathan Demme.
    Produced by: Neda Armian, Marc E. Platt.
    Written by: Jenny Lumet.
    Cast: Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Mather Zickel, Bill Irwin, Anna Deavere Smith, Anisa George, Tunde Adebimpe, Debra Winger.
    Cinematography: Declan Quinn.
    Edited by: Tim Squyres.
    Music by: Donald Harrison Jr., Zafer Tawil.
    Production design by: Ford Wheeler.
    Art direction by: Kim Jennings.
    Costumes by: Susan Lyall.

    Related links: Official site | All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
    She was in "The Devil Wears Prada," of course, but again so obviously upstaged by Meryl Streep (channeling Glenn Close's Cruella De Vil) that, as a result, she kind of slunk into the background also. I did notice her breasts in "Brokeback Mountain" and remembered being woefully disappointed by that. I mean, I understand that Ang Lee's a cool director an' all but even so... As far as I remember that scene in the pick-up truck didn't necessitate toplessness. A brassiere would've just as easily sufficed.

    Now Ms. Hathaway is starring, front and center, in Jonathan Demme's new feature "Rachel Getting Married" and she's hard not to notice. And I mean that in a good way — a very good way.

    Rachel Getting Married  
    Hathaway sports a dyed black crop as Kym, nine months free of abusing substances and released from rehab in time for her sister Rachel's upcoming nuptials. Unconditional love and acceptance here we come — not! Chain-smoking her sorry way through life, Kym feels the disapproval and embarrassment of her family at every turn, and attempts to make amends (the 12-step way) via a poorly received Maid of Honor speech. But, as she points out, being Mother Theresa wouldn't satisfy her clan.

    As events unfold we learn the whys and the wherefores of Kym's hospitalization, her parents divorce (her somewhat distant mother is played by Debra Winger in a scarily real performance), her sister's disappointment. "Scarily real," in fact, describes "Rachel Getting Married" to a tee.

      Hathaway is hard not to notice. And I mean that in a good way.
    Director Demme shoots most everything with a hand-held camera that evokes the fine Danish drama "The Celebration," which centered around a family reunion not unlike this one, captured the tense, dramatic events via a natural filmmaking style, and featured an actor, Ulrich Thomsen, who looks not unlike Bill Irwin here (Irwin plays the patriarch and his is a fine performance too, as is Rosemarie DeWitt's as the eponymous Rachel).

    This cinéma vérité approach of Demme's is so convincing it's often hard to remember we're watching a fictionalized drama (the recent "Margot at the Wedding" tackled similar dysfunctional family themes with less successful results). The wedding dinner scene, during which many a toast is proffered, is a striking example of how this talented director applies his chosen technique.

    Rachel Getting Married  
    Demme also has a knack for drawing out fine performances (see: "The Silence of the Lambs") and Hathaway is the best she's been. Self-absorbed and narcissistic, Kym is not intrinsically likable but Hathaway ditches her own lightweight image and brings out her character's emotional core.

      Demme's cinéma vérité technique is so convincing it's often hard to remember we're watching a fictionalized drama.
    Credit should also go to Jenny Lumet (daughter of veteran director Sydney Lumet), whose finely realized screenplay neither skirts nor overplays the issues.

    Rachel gets married, but it's Anne who gets the cred.

    NOVEMBER 4, 2008

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