"Rachel Getting Married" is a rather odd indie film that tries to blend two movies: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, and Girl Interrupted (or other drug-addict-in-rehab films). In a nod to Guess, the groom in the interracial wedding is named Sidney. The bride is Rachel, whose troubled sister threatens to disrupt the whole proceedings since she just got out of of drug rehab for the umpteenth time.
Rachel (Rosemary DeWitt) had chosen her best friend to be her bridesmaid, but Kym (Anne Hathaway) demands and gets that role as due as sister of the bride. The whole dysfunctional family gathers back at the old homestead in Connecticut for the wedding. All are still grieving over the loss of a younger brother ten years ago when Kym, high on drugs, drove off a bridge and her brother drowned.
The family tragedy has been pushed into the background for so long that it's a habit. Throwing everyone together again in the emotionally-charged atmosphere of a wedding brings it back up again, in unexpected incidents.
Demme directs lightly, letting the stars move freely on the set in a naturalistic fashion, and minor characters improvise speeches at rehearsal and wedding dinners.
It has the air of a French film, and coincidentally the only foreign language on the DVD is French. BTW, there are not one but two indulgent commentary soundtracks: one by Rosemary DeWitt, and one by the author Jennie Lumet. No one thought to provide other foreign languages or even an English one for the Hard of Hearing. It's all about them, isn't it?
Hathaway get to show some acting chops as the guilty, addicted sister. She goes to her 12-step meetings and has stayed clean for nine months. Embarrassing moments crop up when she runs into someone from an old rehab stay, who recounts her mythical story of child sexual abuse. She is good but somehow it seems a labored effort.
A marvelous supporting cast of New York stage actors, plus a real-life rehab counselor, add depth and texture to the film. It is also full of quirks such as the fact that they are being married in Indian saris, with musicians providing a live and improvised soundtrack.
"Rachel Getting Married", 2008 now on DVD, 1 hour 53 minutes, rated R, directed by Jonathan Demme, written by Jennie Lumet, stars Anne Hathaway, Rosemary DeWitt, Debra Winger. Three Stars.