Stop the press: Anne Hathaway can act; she can really act. Currently on sale in your friendly, local cineplex are two films featuring the aforementioned actress playing a lead role in a wedding film. The first of these films is 'Bride Wars' - a clichéd, hackneyed chickflick; the second is 'Rachel Getting Married' - a genuine attempt at indie celluloid originality.
'Rachel Getting Married' is the story of the Buchman family celebrating the wedding day of their eldest daughter (Dewitt). Rachel is a caring and thoughtful woman; she is passionate about music and passionate about enjoying and living a good life. Rachel is marrying Sidney (Adebimpe), an African-American man with a passion for Rachel and a passion for enjoying and living a good life too. As both their families prepare for the nuptials to be made and the wedding speeches to be toasted, another family event is also taking place. Rachel's younger sister Kym (Hathaway) has been in rehab, however, she is being released for her sister's wedding. This period of time in rehab is not a trip on an otherwise steady path, it is merely a continuation of a troubled life. Kym is a drug-addict, liar and all-round manipulator. 'Rachel Getting Married' is the story of how these two events combine to form an eventful few days in the lives of those involved.
The first shot of the film shows Anne Hathaway with short hair, a make-up-free face and with a cigarette hanging from her mouth. Instantly, we see director Jonathan Demme's ('Silence of the Lambs', 'Philadelphia') intentions: to push Hathaway as an actress and draw her away from the cutesy roles that have dominated her career thus far.
One never really knows how much a performance owes to its director, but judging from Hathaway's previous performances, Demme has helped her no end in this role; the young starlet is nothing short of a revelation. From the outset she simply oozes angst and wears a disorientated, beaten down look on her face. Her hair is multi-coloured and ragged and her eyes filled with dismay.
Hathaway is helped in her portrayal of Kym by a razor-sharp script. The writing from first-time screenwriter Jenny Lumet is biting, funny and tender at all the right moments. Hathaway is the lynchpin and is served well by dialogue of acrid humour as well as plenty of silent screen time. Her sister Rachel and her father Paul (Irwin) are also well served by excellent characterisation and a perfect balance of light-hearted and despondent moments.
These central characters have a superb supporting ensemble around them. A segment of the film covers the wedding rehearsal dinner. During this dinner we are treated to introductions to these characters through their speeches; this is a novel and refreshing idea which gently introduces several interesting characters to the audience.
If the wedding is the highlight of this film, the dialogue and human interaction are a very close second. The manner in which familial fights - which soon shift to laughter and back to anger - are dealt with is incredibly vivid and real; true to life as much as one can hope to see on film.
The realism of the film is pushed along by the beautiful natural cinematography of Declan Quinn ('Leaving Las Vegas', 'Monsoon Wedding'). His combination of hand-held digicam footage and more traditionally designed camera footage works to great effect.
Musically, the film is a tour de force. As the eventful wedding day unfolds, we hop effortlessly from traditional to folk to rock to jazz to pop. The soundtrack is so well-chosen it becomes a character in the film in its own right. Music lovers will be intoxicated.
'Rachel Getting Married's strength is its depiction and analysis of bittersweet life; however, this may be too tender for some cinemagoer's tastes. The film is also a little long, meaning those who like cinema snappy may tire in the middle section. Those who like their cinema low-key and focused on character interaction will be in for a treat with this one and can prepare to be brought from laughter to pain in swift directorial movements throughout. Let's hope Hathaway continues to pick such interesting scripts.