Sunday, November 09, 2008

Rachel Getting Married

More often than not, the movies I go to see are one of two kinds: Popcorn movies or Classics (often popcorn movies from another era, with enough ambition, heart and craft to stand the test of time). I like mystery, comedy, heroism and suspense.

But every now and then--not nearly often enough, recently--I try to make it to a movie that doesn't wear those things on its sleeve. Sure, it's all there--those things are a part of any life, in varying doses--but on their own, it's like listening to music with the bass cranked all the way up: It makes your heart pound, but you lose a lot of complexity.

Rachel Getting Married
gets all the elements right, in proper balance. It's a movie about a family with a devastating past and a strained present, on one of its happiest days. Kym (Anne Hathaway) has come home from a treatment center; she's nine months sober, and is still struggling with it. Her sister Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) is getting married to Sidney (TV on the Radio's Tunde Adebimpe), and their families are meeting for the first time. And like Kym, we're dropped into the middle of it all.

I don't want to say too much about the plot of the movie, or even how the different characters relate to each other. It's not giving too much away to mention that Rachel thinks of Kym as ticking time bomb that could potentially ruin her wedding day, but that diminishes both women. Rachel loves her sister, and Kym isn't trying to make trouble... but in some ways she is trouble, both by her actions, and even by the feelings her presence evokes.

Of course, that doesn't say it all about what's between the two sisters, or them and their families and guests. It's probably best to approach the movie knowing as little as possible. Not because of any big surprises, but because any line of dialogue can contain a small revelation, and it's best to get the pleasure or sting of it for yourself. Suffice it to say that the cast (also including Bill Irwin, Anna Deavere Smith, Mather Zickel and Debra Winger) never disappoints.

One of the things the movie does best is include the viewer in the wedding and its preparations. You feel like you've been invited, and get to enjoy the ceremony, cringe at an awkward toast, and party it up...but as you glance around the reception tent, you might notice details of countless stories happening around you. And one in particular, mixing hope and joy and grief in ways that will blindside you.

I can't recommend it highly enough.


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