Not to start off this review on a clichéd note, but allow me to drop some words of wisdom from a great orator, Maze frontman Frankie Beverly:
"Love can be bitter, love can be sweet
Sometimes devotion and sometimes deceit
The ones that you care for give you so much pain
Oh, but it's all right, they're both one in the same."
Other than to show that R&B singers always knew what to say back in the day, I bring this verse up because fans of those words may find themselves revisiting them while watching "Rachel Getting Married." Just like the seven-minute song those lyrics belong to (called "Joy and Pain," if you don't know), "Married" takes its time showing how you can't have love without sorrow, agony without ecstasy, the urge to forget without the willingness to forgive.
Needless to say, this is a film about a heavily dysfunctional family, a family that's about to welcome some more members into the mix. Older offspring Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) is about to get married to the hip Sidney (TV on the Radio lead singer Tunde Adebimpe), and everyone is invited. That even includes Rachel's little sis Kym (Anne Hathaway), straight outta rehab.
The minute Kym shuffles into the door, you know she's going to be trouble. Hopelessly sarcastic, chain-smoking and drama-inciting, she's the definition of an addictive personality.
She has a basement quickie with the best man (Mather Zickel), also a recovering junkie. (Hey, you gotta get your fix somewhere!) She guilt-trips her sister into giving her maid-of-honor duties, kicking Rachel's best friend (Anisa George) down to the bridesmaid squad. She proposes a rehearsal-dinner toast that's more cringe-worthy than all the seasons of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" combined.
But even with her innate ability to make everything all about her, Kym is seriously hurting inside. If all the years of drugging and burning bridges she has to make amends for isn't enough, there is this family tragedy she's woefully responsible for. It's apparent she sets herself up as an irksome heel because she can't bring herself to be forgiven, by herself or by her family.
Directed with quiet, naturalistic precision by Jonathan Demme and written by Jenny Lumet (Sidney's daughter), "Married" hits you in all the right places, slamming you in spots that may cut a bit too deep. I hate to get all Ben Lyons and call "Married" an emotional rollercoaster, but it seems there is finally a film that accurately fits that description. As the family looks for a positive, new beginning via the wedding, they are forever reminded that things will never be the same.
"Married" is already getting unanimous praise, which makes the contrarian in me find things to nitpick. I must say that Demme's quest to make the wedding the trendiest, global-village, lovey-dovey gathering in movie history, featuring music from such artists as Robyn Hitchcock and Sister Carol East, with a guest list that includes Roger Corman, "Def Poetry" regular Beau Sia and even Fab 5 Freddy, began to get to me. (The rehearsal-dinner toast sequence seemed like it took up the bulk of the movie.)
Nonetheless, "Married" pleased me in many other ways. For starters, it'll finally solidify to audiences what I've always known about Hathaway -- that the gal is a major talent. Whether she's bickering with her sister, looking for some type of understanding from her father (Bill Irwin, upbeat but heartbreaking) or, in the movie's most unnerving scene, engaging in an explosive confrontation with her detached mother (a sad, subdued Debra Winger), Hathaway gives us the perfect tragic protagonist in Kym.
But this movie is not all about pain. As the climactic wedding reception shows, it's also about joy, and finding it where you can get it -- even if it's there for a brief moment. "Rachel Getting Married" reminds you that joy and pain, like sunshine and rain, are one and the same.