Rachel Getting Married is a 2008 drama film directed by Jonathan Demme, and starring Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Bill Irwin and Debra Winger. The film was released in the U.S. to select theaters on October 3, 2008. The film opened the 65th Venice International Film Festival. The film also opened in Canada's Toronto Film Festival on September 6, 2008. Hathaway received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for her performance in the film.
Kym (Anne Hathaway) is released from drug rehab for a few days so she can go home to attend the wedding of her sister Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt). At home, the atmosphere is strained between Kym and her family members as they struggle to reconcile themselves with her past and present. Kym's father (Bill Irwin) shows intense concern for her well-being and whereabouts, which Kym interprets as mistrust. She also resents her sister's choice of her best friend Emma (Anisa George), rather than Kym, to be her maid of honor. Rachel, for her part, resents the attention her sister's drug addiction is drawing away from her wedding, a resentment that comes to a head at the rehearsal dinner, where Kym, amid toasts from friends and family, takes the microphone to offer an apology for her past actions, as part of her twelve-step program.
Underlying the family's dynamic is a tragedy that occurred years previously, which Kym retells at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. As a teenager, Kym was responsible for the death of her young brother Ethan, who was left in her care one day; driving home from a nearby park, an intoxicated Kym had lost control of the car, driving over a bridge and into a lake, where her brother drowned.
The day before the wedding, as Rachel, Kym, and the other bridesmaids are getting their hair done, Kym is approached by a man whom she knew from an earlier stint in rehab. He thanks her for the strength she gave him through a story about having been molested by an uncle and having cared for her sister, who was anorexic. Rachel, hearing this, storms out of the hair salon. The story, it turns out, was all a lie â" an apparent attempt by Kym to evade responsibility for her addiction.
The tension between the sisters comes to a head later that night at their father's house, when Kym comes home. Rachel reveals she has never forgiven Kym for their brother's death, and now makes the point that Kym's rehab has been a hoax since she has been lying about the cause of her problems. Kym finally admits responsibility for Ethan's death and reveals that she had been relapsing in order to cope. She gets into her father's car and leaves.
Kym heads to the home of their mother Abby (Debra Winger), hoping to find solace with her. However, a fight breaks out between them, when Kym asks Abby why she left Ethan in her care on the night of his death despite knowing that she was often on drugs. She makes the point on how better off it would've been if she had left him in Rachel's care. Abby tells Kym she left Ethan with her because "you were good with him" and that she thinks her sister is a hypocrite for her accusations. When Kym makes it clear she thinks her mother's decision was in part responsible for Ethan's death, Abby becomes furious and punches Kym in the face. Kym hits her mother back and drives off in her father's car. While driving away, Kym begins sobbing uncontrollably because in her mind, she feels Abby has not accepted appropriate responsibility for her part in the actions which ultimately caused Ethan's death. Kym drives the car off the road and crashes into a boulder. Rather than summon help, she spends the night in the car while everyone at home worries about what has become of her.
The next morning, the day of the wedding, Kym is spotted in the car by passing joggers, who call police. The police awaken her and give her a sobriety test, which she passes. She gets a ride home with the driver of the tow truck who is towing the wrecked car. She makes her way to Rachel's room, as Rachel prepares for the wedding. Seeing Kym's bruised face from a fight she had with their mother prompts her anger of the previous night to vanish, and Rachel tenderly bathes and dresses her sister.
Amid a festive Indian theme, Rachel and her fiancÃ© are wed. Kym is the maid of honor, and is overcome with emotion as the couple exchanges their vows. Kym tries to enjoy herself throughout the wedding reception but continues to feel out of place and is nagged by the unresolved dispute with her mother. Ultimately, her mother leaves the party early, despite Rachel's effort to bring the two together, and the gulf between Kym and Abby is left unreconciled - suggesting Abby's emotional distance and unwillingness to accept responsibility is the root cause of the family's problems.
The next morning, Kym returns to rehab. As she is leaving, Rachel runs out of the house to hug her.
The screenplay was written by Jenny Lumet, the daughter of director Sidney Lumet and granddaughter of Lena Horne. Lumet, a junior high school drama teacher, has written four earlier screenplays, but this was the first to be produced. The film is directed by Jonathan Demme, and was shot in Stamford, Connecticut in a naturalistic style. The working title for the film was originally Dancing with Shiva.
Sidney Lumet himself approached Demme about his daughter Jenny's script. Demme has commented that he loved Jenny's flagrant disregard for the rules of formula, her lack of concern for making her characters likable in the conventional sense, and for what he considered to be her bold approach to truth, pain, and humor.
Filming took 33 days and occurred in late 2007.
- Anne Hathaway as Kym Buchman
- Rosemarie DeWitt as Rachel Buchman
- Bill Irwin as Paul Buchman
- Debra Winger as Abby Buchman
- Tunde Adebimpe as Sidney
- Mather Zickel as Kieran
- Anna Deavere Smith as Carol
- Anisa George as Emma
- Victoria Haynes as Victoria
- Jerome LePage as Andrew
- Carol-Jean Lewis as Sidney's Mother
- Fab 5 Freddy as Himself
- Robyn Hitchcock as Wedding Guest/Performer
- Sister Carol East as Wedding Guest
- Beau Sia as Wedding Czar
- Andre Blake as Inspired Stylist
- Roger Corman as Wedding Guest
- Tamyra Gray as Singing Friend
- Kyrah Julian as Sidney's Sister
- Roslyn Ruff as Rosa
- Sebastian Stan as Walter
Demme had wanted to work with Anne Hathaway ever since he spotted her in a crowd at a screening five years earlier. He immediately took her in consideration for the lead role. Hathaway later said of her first reading Lumet's script: "I was in my old apartment in the West Village Manhattan, just pacing back and forth between the kitchen table and the couch. I somehow wound up on the floor sobbing by the last page."
Rosemarie DeWitt was considered by the film's casting directors. Demme and the rest of the crew were impressed and immediately wanted her to play Rachel. Bill Irwin is a personal friend of Demme's.
Tunde Adebimpe's role, Sidney, was originally offered to American film director Paul Thomas Anderson while he was working on the post-production of the movie There Will Be Blood.
Demme was concerned about Debra Winger's interest in doing the film, but he pumped up his courage to ask her because they had met several times before at the Jacob Burns Center, a film center close to their homes. Winger later accepted the role of Abby.
The music-loving director Demme invited musicians to compose the score live on set, to support the film's storyline.
"For the longest time," Demme has said, "I've had this desire to provide the musical dimension of a movie without traditionally scored music. I thought: wait a minute; in the script, Paul [father of the bride] is a music-industry bigwig, Sidney's a record producer, many of his friends will be gifted musicians, so of course there would be non-stop music at this gathering. We have music playing live throughout the weekend, but always in the next room, out on the porch or in the garden."
Throughout the unconventional filming and loosely staged scenes, a New Yorkâ"based Middle Eastern ensemble, including the Palestinian musician Zafer Tawil, and Iraqi Amir ElSaffar, who played the score of Demme's documentary Man from Plains, compose the score on set. Always present at the filming, the musicians had the freedom â" and were encouraged â" to play whenever they were inspired to, and to ignore the camera.
According to Demme on the DVD, during filming of a dramatic scene, Hathaway complained about the music interfering with the mood, to which Demme responded "Tell her to do something about it!" Hathaway, in that scene, responded by improvising the line, "Can you tell them to knock it off?!" to which another actor not heavily involved in the scene went off-screen and told the band to stop.
Well-known acting faces mingle anonymously on-screen with musicians, artists, and dancers. Among them are the New Orleanian saxophonist Donald Harrison Jr., and the Brooklyn-based TV on the Radio's lead singer Tunde Adebimpe.
Singer-songwriter Robyn Hitchcock plays a wedding guest. At the ceremony Hitchcock, at the request of his old friend Demme, performs the song "America" from his 1982 album Groovy Decay. He also plays "Up To Our Nex", written for the movie. "It's my micro-encapsulation of the movie. The song is trying to be a voice in Kym's head." Filmed in one take at the wedding party, he is spontaneously joined by the hip-hop star Fab 5 Freddy, and the dancehall singers Sister Carol, ElSaffar and Tawil.
For Demme, it was about creating evocative music in the moment.
The film received critical acclaim and appeared on many "Best Film of 2008" lists. Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune called the film "a triumph of ambience," and that Hathaway, DeWitt, Irwin and especially Winger are working at a very high level. Roger Ebert's four-star rating added, "apart from the story, which is interesting enough, 'Rachel Getting Married' is like the theme music for an evolving new age." Other critics praised Jonathan Demme. Andrew Sarris noted in the New York Observer "his career of cinematic good works" and Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly observed "a fight scene that's as raw as Ingmar Bergman and as operatic as Mildred Pierce" . . . and "Demme's finest work since The Silence of the Lambs.
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone noted that Rachel Getting Married is "a home runâ¦ [it goes] deep into the joy and pain of being human." A.O. Scott of The New York Times said that the film "has an undeniable and authentic vitality, an exuberance of spirit, that feels welcome and rare".
Many reviewers praised the film for its organic feel; Salon reviewer Stephanie Zacharek noted that "with 'Rachel Getting Married,' Demme has once again scaled back, making a picture that has some of the ease and warmth of his earlier movies, although it also feels stripped down and direct in a way that's new for Demme." USA Today proclaimed: "After a foray in documentary films, director Jonathan Demme has returned to narrative storytelling, assuming a decidedly cinÃ©ma vÃ©ritÃ© style that has echoes of Robert Altman. The film's greatest asset is the sense of cringing realism in portraying dinner parties and interpersonal encounters that can throw family members off-kilter." The Los Angeles Times noted:
Helping give this story its essential air of reality is the decision Demme and cinematographer Quinn made to shoot it as what they call "the most beautiful home movie ever made." The director chose not to plan shots in advance, instead giving Quinn (whose credits include Mira Nair's "Monsoon Wedding") the ability to respond in the moment to what was going on with the actors, and it's a tribute to his ability (and that of editor Tim Squyres) that his camera always seems to be in the right place at the right time.
Anne Hathaway won raves for her work as Kym. USA Today found her wonderful in the role and wrote "Her nervous laughter, edginess and quick temper blend convincingly with her need for attention and vulnerability." Newsweek commented: "Kym is a major pain in the ass, and Hathaway's raw, spiky performance makes no attempt to ingratiate. Yet she makes Kym's inner torment so palpable you can't help but feel for her, however insufferable she may be. It's a terrific performanceâ¦". Empire felt that "Kym is a peach of a roleâ"she sleeps with the best man, fights with the maid of honor, quips, 'You're so thin, it's like you're Asian'â"and Hathaway squeezes it for all the juice it's worth, making this raw-nerved, narcissistic Tasmanian Devil not just believable, but somehow likable."
As of June 10, 2014, the film holds an overall 85 percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes The film received a score of 82, indicating "universal acclaim", on the critical aggregator website Metacritic.
Top ten lists
The film appeared on many critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2008.
Awards and Nominations
- Official website
- Rachel Getting Married at AllMovie
- Rachel Getting Married at the Internet Movie Database
- Rachel Getting Married at Metacritic
- Rachel Getting Married at Rotten Tomatoes
- Rachel Getting Married at Box Office Mojo