Two Anne Hathaway wedding films opened in January. One was the diabolical Bride Wars, written by committee, directed by numbers.
The other was Rachel Getting Married, written by Sidney Lumet’s daughter Jenny, directed by Jonathan Demme, ignored as many mistook it for Bride Wars. Lounge though does solemnly swear this is nothing like that. Why? Because it’s brilliant.
Taking place over one weekend and shot on DV with improvisation key, Rachel Getting Married rarely strays from the house where the eponymous bride to be (Rosemarie DeWitt) will marry Sidney (TV On The Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe, NME readers). They’re a happy couple and their guests a celebratory, musical bunch, but wading into the party like a growth on your privates is Rachel’s sister Kym (Hathaway): addict, narcissist, trouble.
The set-up is simple and in lesser hands would surely have tumbled into a punch-up by act two. But once again, this is not Bride Wars and Demme directs the gathering with a delicacy that ensures nothing ever feels forced, no action or conversation unrealistic or crass. He even allows a groom/fatherin- law dishwasher-loading contest to run its lengthy course. Just because it feels like something people would do when trying to get to know each other.
In the aptly-named extra doc A Look Behind The Scenes Of Rachel Getting Married, Demme says he was inspired by recent US indies; the off-the-cuff influence of a Half Nelson or The Wrestler is clear, with Making Of shots showing the director’s crew ambling round the set-up honing in on actors when they please, all ready for what must have been an epic edit (and a successful one, with just one of the deleted scenes feeling missed from final cut).
“It kept us on our toes,” seems to be the actors’ collective take on Rachel. When Demme had to tell old-schooler Debra Winger – playing the sisters’ mum – to forget about backstory, it’s clear that the docu-real shoot was new to many. Winger’s Abby is a tragic character, but the director knows her woes wouldn’t be talked about at her daughter’s wedding – so when she is introduced to others at a rehearsal dinner, the viewer knows as much about her as those on screen.
But anchoring the entire film is Hathaway and it’s an oversight neither she nor Demme grace the so-so commentaries. So fragile throughout, her Kym broke years ago and has to rely on rehab to piece her debris back together.
It’s the one-time Princess Diarist’s best performance to date, ridiculously denied a Best Actress Bafta nom and arguably more affecting than both of Kate Winslet’s big roles last year. Maybe the voters got this confused with that other Hathaway wedding film too…