Friday, January 16, 2009
I'm of two minds when it comes to Jonathan Demme's Rachel Getting Married. On the one hand, seeing 'Sister Carol' East (Something Wild, Married to the Mob) as part of the wedding guests/performers seems to signal that this film is a return to form for Demme, who hasn't fashioned one of his signature quirky movies since 1988. On the other hand, mashing up his quirky music-lover sensibilities with the dour family drama at the heart of Rachel doesn't make for the best fit. Maybe he's still drunk on all the Oscar accolades from the terrific Silence of the Lambs (1991) because every movie since then has had a a little of the bloat of self-importance about it. You can't fault the performances, which are right on the money. Not only is Anne Hathaway (The Devil Wears Prada) repellent as the twelve-stepper Kym, she is obnoxious in her self examination, par for the course as the younger sister in the family. The titular Rachel is given wonderful life by Rosemarie DeWitt (Mad Men), who is able to hold her own quite well with the scene-stealing Hathaway never far from screen. Particular praise goes to Bill Irwin (Sesame Street) and Debra Winger (Terms of Endearment) as the two women's divorced parents. In fact, the whole cast is probably one of the best ensembles in a film in 2008. So why does the movie feel so phony? Perhaps it is all the unnecessary accoutrements that Demme uses to dress the film up. Since the prospective groom is a musician, Demme thinks he has free rein to bring in every oddball bohemian cliche in to enliven the wedding, and it just doesn't ring true. I don't believe Rachel and her fiance would get married wearing saris in a Hindu (?) ceremony. Or their cake would be in the form of Ganesha. All of the set dressing, in fact, serves to dissipate the power of the story of Kym's recovering addict. So this film may be a bit of a transitional one for Demme - still a little self-important with a touch of the quirk we're familiar with - before he comes full circle. I hope so, because it is nice to see Sister Carol sing again in a Demme flick.