A review of “Rachel Getting Married” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ****

Rating: R for language, drug use and adult situations

Run Time: 1 hour, 54 minutes

 

 

To say that Anne Hathaway (“The Princess Diaries”) is a princess no more is one of 2008’s most glaring understatements. As a recovering addict on the verge of imploding she’s the stuff that Oscar dreams of.

Jonathan Demme (“Silence of the Lambs”, “Philadelphia”) directs this wildly engaging journey into the underbelly of family dysfunction, the wedding. Ranking slightly below the holidays as a toxic battleground for domestic damage.

Kym Buckman (Hathaway) has been sprung from rehab into the cozy custody of casa Buckman for her sister Rachel’s (Rosemarie DeWitt) impending nuptials. Nine months clean but ever the narcissist Kym stakes out the arcane rituals of matrimony as a breeding ground for her scathing wit and edgy indictments of family and friends.

Her sociopathic tendencies mean she’s searching for unconditional love from Olive the poodle while wallowing in the proverbial co-dependent cocoon with guilt-ridden dad Paul (Bill Irwin). Father and daughter -- the “double helix of crises” as labeled by the soon-to-be-bride.

One catastrophe leads to another, among them the pivotal rehearsal dinner that Kym chooses as a forum for her splashy amends speech stressing a litany of past transgressions; mattress fires, car wrecks and passing out in bathtubs among them.

Hathaway pervades Demme’s gritty, hand-held docudrama with energetic strife, surrendering to Jenny Lumet’s graceful and spontaneous scripting while pursuing approval from an enabling dad and distant mom (the excellent and beautifully mature Debra Winger) with the subtlety of a heat-seeking missile.

The spotlight stays firmly on Kym but her supporting players are pitch perfect to a man – Irwin, Winger and DeWitt as the beleaguered older sib who just wants one special day of her own. Kudos to the broadminded groom and his recovering best man as played by Tunde Adebimpe and Mather Zickel.

Demme’s low-budget style perfectly complements the sundry aura of adoration and self-loathing. In the grand tradition of awkward hitch-pics (“Four Weddings and a Funeral”, “Monsoon Wedding”) the quips come fast and furious but never overshadow the foundation of friction that speaks to demons untamed.