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Movie Review: "Rachel Getting Married"

Something you should know about me: I like my TV bad and my movies good. If you perused the DVR queue on my TV on any given day, you'd find quite a few shows with leading stars who are unable to legally order a drink and perhaps even a show or two that could potentially win a Daytime Emmy. I'm not proud of this, of course, but it is what it is. After a long day of commuting and dealing with an incredibly needy dog, sometimes the cast of "Gossip Girl" is the only thing that can perk me up. (Sorry, but Blair Waldorf has a special way of cheering me up after sitting in traffic on a Monday night.) But when it comes to movies, my tastes become surprisingly more developed. I don't mind driving to a faraway theater that is known for showing independent films. I like documentaries, foriegn films and I countdown to the Oscars. Also, about once a month, I spend a few hours watching all the latest movie trailers online, and then I make a list of all the must-see films being soon released. (My husband rolls his eyes constantly at me for this, but one of his favorite movies is "Super Troopers," so I'm not that insulted.) When I recently watched the trailer for "Rachel Getting Married" starring Anne Hathaway, I made a mental note that I had to see this film. And yesterday I did.

The story is basically this: Kym (Hathaway) has just been released from rehab for drug and alcohol addiction after serving an unspecified time in jail. She's returning home a few days before her sister, Rachel's (Rosemarie Dewitt, who, random aside, looks a lot like Whoorl, one of my favorite bloggers) wedding and the tension in the house is palpable even before Kym steps through the door.

We quickly find out that Kym has battled with her addictions for years and, devastatingly, that being high at the age of 16 caused her to drive her car off a local bridge with her baby brother, Ethan, stuck in the car seat. She made it out of the car. He didn't.

The story in itself had real potential and gave the movie some genuinely relatable and downright honest moments. I love movies that take a real look at family dynamics without the generic soundtracks or inauthentic punchlines. I also love complicated stories where each character has actual flaws that make it impossible for them to be pigeonholed, but this movie, unfortunately, fell short for me even with glimpses of all of the things I usually love about movies and despite the critical acclaim it's received so far.

First, the movie is intentionally filmed with a "shaky camera," one of the techniques used in "cinema verite," which is a method it seemed director Jonathan Demme was striving to use. Now, I understand the reasoning for filming with a shaky camera and some movies even use the plot (i.e. "Cloverfield") to explain it, but when people can't enjoy the movie because they're nauseous ten minutes into it, you have to wonder if the method is all that thought out and, well, worth it. Now, I got used to the shakiness fairly quickly, but enough people got up to leave halfway through to lead me believe I was in the minority.

Next flaw: some of the scenes (particularly the rehearsal dinner speeches and the reception dance sequences) were just too long and drawn out. The flow of a movie is important, and when one scene runs nearly a half hour, even the biggest film fanatic can find herself growing restless. Eventually you lose focus and the story stops being strengthened and characters are no longer being developed. I actually began to wonder if one ridiculously long scene was actually a joke.

There's also a scene near the end of the film when the immediate family members are lashing out at one another yet again, and Kym's stepmother opens the side door to ask the wedding band (who has been playing music non-stop since the rehearsal dinner) to cool it for a while, and I had to resist yelling out in the theater, "it's about damn time." The same music I found eclectic and interesting in the first scene became irritating and pained near the end of the movie, and I was practically ready for a Top-40 song to cue up by the time the credits rolled.

Now, I thought Hathaway's performance was great, and if you didn't know, you simply wouldn't believe this was the same girl who got her big break in "The Princess Diaries." The other actors were also fantastic including Debra Winger who played Kym and Rachel's distracted, emotionally distant mother. She captured the character beautifully, and I wish she had been on the screen more. Also, the dialog had a truly refreshing feel to it. I guarantee I've had some of the same conversations with my own family at strained family functions, and the conversational feel was honest where movies like "Juno" are entertaining yet so obviously scripted.

I just couldn't get over a few things, though, and it, ultimately, ran too long for me. With a few shorter scenes, a steady camera, a more subtle soundtrack, I would have enjoyed it more. But there is more to a movie than the actors and the plot, and that was seriously apparent in "Rachel Getting Married." Thankfully, I had a few back episodes of "The Hills" to watch when I got home. 

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Thanks for a thoughtful review!

I probably will go see it if it shows where I live, but I'm glad to be warned about some of those flaws ahead of time. Nice work!


I've been waiting to see this one for a while now. And now that I know a Whoorl-alike is starring, I'll be sure to go.


i have been wanting to see this, but maybe i will wait till dvd...shaky camera + naseaos mam = leaving the theatre to barf.

hollywood stars

Dear all, I'm glad to have found this site. I've been waiting for this review and I can't wait to see the movie.

bethany actually

I get what you're saying about the shaky camera and the music, but I was so caught up in the story, in the relationships between the characters, and in thinking about people in my own life I've known with addiction problems that they didn't bother me a bit. I thought this was a fantastic movie and that anyone who loves an addict could get something out of it.

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