Rachel is getting married and we're all invited. Actually, it feels like we're all trapped in this celebration, and director Jonathan Demme is making sure we swallow every last drop of the festivities. Overall, this is a strong dramatic picture, assured catnip for art-house maniacs, and while I admire the film for its performance tenacity, I also wanted to unleash a Louisville Slugger on the projector during stretches of the feature.
Fresh from a dubious stint in rehab, eternal narcissist Kym (Anna Hathaway) is returning to her affluent Connecticut home for her sister Rachel's (Rosemarie DeWitt) wedding. Thrust into the mayhem of the matrimonial weekend, surround by strangers and overbearing parents (including Bill Irwin), Kym can't allow the spotlight to be pulled away from her at this critical moment in her life. Over the course of the weekend, Kym spends her time challenging her loved ones with displays of self-centeredness and naked emotion few are able to comprehend, leaving Rachel an emotional wreck during the most important day of her life.
While forever a nonconformist filmmaker, Demme is flirting perilously with the Dogma 95 cinematic minimalist movement with "Married." Shot with HD cameras, often handheld and specifically instructed to wander, the feature approaches raw and unfiltered characters with an appropriate cinematographic language. The freedom gives Demme a passport to exquisite moments of discomfort, following Kym's insistence on pushing self-centered behavior into bleak areas of confession and humiliation as she strives to remain in the family limelight. Searching for recovery and sympathy at top volume, Kym is a fascinating character of impulsive response and worrisome conduct.
The performance by Anne Hathaway is a study in steadfast trainwreck fortitude, and while the actress has always been capable of inhabiting her characters to the fullest degree, "Married" is a professional transformation that's not easily washed away. Failing to neuter Kym's gutsy, inconsiderate, and selfish mannerisms, Hathaway finds a serpentine center to the role that's hypnotic: a three-dimensional portrayal of self-destruction and sibling rivalry that keeps Demme on his toes. Hathaway is matched well by DeWitt, and the two roll around Jenny Lumet's acidic screenplay conjuring up moments of sisterly irritation and mistrust that never ring false, with extra gasoline poured on the fire in the form of Debra Winger, here playing the girls' estranged mother. Every last actor offers up exemplary work, but Hathaway is possessed by the spirit of scarring social misconduct, making her every move a gem of screen behavior.
Where Demme lost me is the ghastly pace of "Married." Observing the entire wedding weekend, the picture is one long celebration, embedding the camera amongst the parties, planning, and execution of the event. Demme is building a community with his ragtag group of musicians (including Robyn Hitchcock and Fab 5 Freddy) and artists, but he doesn't know when to quit. One example is found during a wedding party toasting sequence that follows every attendee as they proclaim their love for Rachel and her betrothed. I mean every attendee, in a punishing 15-minute-long gabfest that's exceptionally indulgent. To Demme, it's divine ornamentation. To a viewer like me, it's close to torture.
Getting to the root of Kym's pain is the ultimate road chosen by "Married," and her revelations renew emotional investment in the feature while Demme tries to drown it out with his flaccid festive hypnosis. "Rachel Getting Married" can be a devastatingly trying moviegoing experience, but at the center of all the hoopla is Hathaway's take on battered virtue, and that's worth all the endless scenes in the world to enjoy.
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