I have an excellent track record with movies I’ve watched outside of Florida. On business trips the past two years I’ve seen the excellent trio of Once, I’m Not There and Pan’s Labyrinth. And while in Chicago for a wedding in 2006, Alex and I caught a late screening of The Devil Wears Prada, a wonderful surprise.
Well, the trend continues. On a trip last week to Washington D.C. for another friend’s wedding, Alex and I caught Jonathan Demme’s latest film, Rachel Getting Married, and it’s among the best films I’ve seen this year.
(Warning: Minor spoilers follow)
Anne Hathaway delivers her finest performance yet as Kym, a recovering addict who returns home for a weekend to attend her sister’s wedding. As the bride, Rosemary DeWitt (Mad Men) does an an equally impressive job. I expect both to be nominated for Oscars.
The family has been ripped apart not just by Kym’s drug addiction but by the “accidental” death of a younger brother left in Kym’s care. It’s the sort of unspeakable tragedy that so often fractures a family, and that’s certainly the case here. The mother, played by Debra Winger in an extended cameo, is cold and withdrawn as a form of self-preservation. The father (Bill Irwin, who we know best as Sesame Street‘s Mr. Noodle) channels his denial into making everything just so for his troubled daughter. And Rachel, the one “normal” child, feels angry and forgotten. What a fun group!
It’s a tribute to the acting, writing and direction that the film, which is really just a focused case study of dysfunction, feels as light as it does. It helps that Rachel’s wedding is among the coolest I’ve seen, complete with Indian garb, a rock band, belly dancers and a jazz ensemble. Rachel’s fiance is a musician and his friends and band members are always lingering in and outside of the frame, tooling away on violins and guitars.
It’s also refreshing that, though there are lessons learned and relationships strengthened, this isn’t the kind of movie that pretends life’s problems have easy answers. I really don’t know how much healthier any of these characters will be 6 months or a year after Rachel’s wedding.
But the highest compliment I can pay to the film makers is that I’m dying to find out.