Rachel Getting Married (Jonathan Demme, 2008) July 6, 2009Posted by Richard Bolisay in Hollywood.
Directed by Jonathan Demme
Written by Jenny Lumet
Cast: Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Bill Irwin, Debra Winger
Come to think of it, buoyancy also applies to films. In Jonathan Demme’s riveting Rachel Getting Married, the characters take their turns in sinking and floating in the story, particularly the sisters who pull the strings in motion, and in the end all of them are left submerged, the families and friends and strangers that stay for the wedding, leaving you to wonder that everything just happens to be forgotten all along. There is that tendency for the characters to float or rise but Demme’s hands are quick to grab them, to put them all in place, to make them work in painting a portrait of a family pulled apart by both past and present. There is that tension we always see coming by the time Kym gets picked up by her parents and arrives home. Demme never hides that, but he also never lets it slip away from his hands and get out of control. Through the handheld shots we feel a certain intimacy to the family – – the protective father, the reactive sister, the distant yet overwhelmingly felt mother, the family of the groom, the friends of the groom, the supposed maid of honor – – but we don’t see all of them, we just get a glimpse of their differences, of how an occasion as gregarious as a wedding can show their vulnerability, their response to ugly situations that they need to confront. After all Rachel Getting Married is not about a dysfunctional family that tries to be functional; otherwise it wouldn’t make sense to end it with Rachel or to show those scenes when Kym is not at all a concerned party. It presents how the family, in all its noble intentions of keeping us away from harm and riding herd on us, also tends to corrupt us and make a bad situation worse. And at times that’s not far from the truth. Kym’s character is easy to bank on; she’s the dramatic figure, she figures to be where all the problems are coming from, she seems to be the one who’s stopping the other members of the family from functioning well. But she isn’t. Lumet weaves her characters in such a way that sympathy is out of question. She makes them speak like they were our own families or neighbors or friends, telling us to shut up or to get the dictionary to know the meaning of amends, summoning answers that will not be for everything. Resolution is not the filmmakers’ duty; sometimes the lack of it makes it more resounding to tell us what’s wrong.