It takes about an hour, but Anne Hathaway finally sheds the Princess Diary glitter that makes her performance as Kym, recovering drug addict on leave from rehab to attend her sister’s wedding, hard to completely believe. Her snotty self-absorption and 12-step clichés eventually undermine her wholesome academic decathlete looks, and you’re able, finally, to grasp the true heartbreak behind the film’s aura of sadness and loss. From that moment on, the film mostly works , but much before, and even some of it afterward, is too similar to attending an actual wedding you won’t get laid at the end of — overly long, and anticlimactic. For segments, the filmmakers seem intent on capturing every uncomfortable nuptial moment, from the awkward rehearsal dinner toasts full of worn-out quips and inside jokes we aren’t in on, to the shitty bands and low-level domestic violence.
Demme’s tight shots and Lumet’s leisurely script are alternately hypnotic and exasperating, and Hathaway’s take on the self-centered addict and ex-model is surprisingly — and probably intentionally — unsympathetic. Her sister Rachel (DeWitt) is often easier to identify with, but Kym remains the main focal point, forcing the viewer to either re-evaluate the extremely unlikable aspects of her personality, or perhaps stop caring altogether. Selecting Hathaway for this role seems like a gamble that only occasionally pays off , but the much of the rest of the cast is solid and better able to disappear into their often shallow characters.
Irwin gives a multifaceted performance as the overprotective father despite the script’s sometimes unsubtle motivations, while Winger’s take on the low-grade bitchy mother is believably undramatic and helps to keep the film from descending into soap operatics. Until a key scene late in the film, casting TV on the Radio frontman Adebimpe as Rachel’s musician-fiancé Sidney seems like an attempt at grabbing some quick indie cred. Adebimpe spends most of the film speechless, acting understandably uncomfortable and out of place while Kym purposefully provokes familial tension and repeatedly attempts to draw attention to herself. And in that way, he often serves as a stand-in for those audience members inwardly squirming at the strained relations.
Attempts at halfhearted humor generally fail to bring relief to the hardest-to-watch moments; all the characters here are too true to life to be genuinely funny. The constant trauma quickly grows tiring, depleting the audience’s emotional investment before it’s had time to accumulate, so that when the big dramatic revelations emerge in the film’s second half, they make less of an impact than they probably should. While Rachel Getting Married is sometimes moving and occasionally even brilliant, its 113 minute runtime is about 30 minutes too long, and will ultimately remind less-patient viewers why they never watch their old wedding tapes anymore. •