Rachel Getting Married uncannily reminds me of two films that played at TIFF last year. On the outside, I think of Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead. Here we have veteran directors (Rachel’s Jonathan Demme and Before‘s Sidney Lumet) working from scripts by first-time female screenwriters (Rachel’s Jenny Lumet, Before’s Kelly Masterson). The strangest part of that comparison is that Jenny is Sidney’s daughter. Both films are/were hailed as something of an artistic comeback for the directors.
But artistically, there’s not really too much between the films, other than maybe one their core elements both being the relationship between siblings, and that both are quite dark (though Before much more so). Artistically, an extensive comparison can easily be made with TIFF 07’s Margot at the Wedding. Both are shot on hand held to help portray the sense of family dynamics. Both involve the wedding of one sister, and the return of a long-estranged one. Both follow wealthy, liberal, educated families from the Northeast United States. Both have a few brutal scenes of dialogue that make you cringe in your seat. Both blend humour and drama to help the viewer more easily swallow the rather intense subject matter. And both heavily benefit from the performances of a bunch of very talented women.
I think Margot at the Wedding was an underrated film. Complaints that it felt underdeveloped or pretentious didn’t resonate with me. I found it quite realized and relatable (but I guess that might just say something about me), and both sharply observed and brilliantly executed. It was a shame the screenplay and performances of Kidman and Jason Leigh didn’t get more notices.
Rachel Getting Married looks like it might have an easier time than Margot. And I can see how it might been seen by some as a less pretentious sister of Margot, but only because it deals with characters that are, well, less pretentious. Save for a few montages that went on a bit too long and were featured a bit too often, I really enjoyed the film. It shared many of Margot’s great qualities, though dealt with a much different (and perhaps more challenging) core subject matter that allowed it to stand on its own. And if anything allows Rachel to surpass Margot.. its how remarkably affecting it is. The performances are pretty astounding. And not just Anne Hathaway, who managed to handle a role that could have easily seemed overdramatized or showy and made you really sympathize with a character that has done some severely horrible things. Rosemarie DeWitt as her older, significantly less fucked up sister and Debra Winger in a brief but powerful turn as her mother are both equally impressive. The way the film explores these women and their relationship with one another is its greatest asset.
Rachel Getting Married is easily Jonathan Demme’s best work since The Silence of the Lambs, and anyone faced with challenging family relations, specifically those stemming from addiction, should really make an effort to see it.