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Rachel Getting Married is a drama film directed by Jonathan Demme, and starring Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Bill Irwin and Debra Winger. The film was released in the U.S. to select theaters on October 3, 2008. The film opened the 65th Venice International Film Festival. The film also opened in Canadamarker's Toronto Film Festivalmarker on September 6, 2008.

Plot summary

Kym, a woman perhaps in her mid-twenties, is released from rehab for more than a few days so she can go home to attend her sister Rachel's wedding. At home, the atmosphere is strained between Kym and her family members, as they struggle to reconcile themselves with her past and her presence. Kym's father shows intense concern for her well-being and whereabouts, which Kym interprets as mistrust. She also resents her sister's choice of a friend, rather than Kym, to be her maid of honor. Rachel, for her part, resents the attention her sister's addiction is drawing away from her wedding, a resentment that comes to a head at the rehearsal dinner, where Kym, amid toast from friends and family, takes the microphone to offer an apology for her past actions, as part of her twelve-step program.

Underlying the family's dynamic is a tragedy that occurred many years previously, which Kym retells at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. As a teenager, Kym was responsible for the death of her baby brother, who was left in her care one day despite her being high at the time. Driving home from a nearby park, Kym had lost control of the car, driving over a bridge and into a river, where her brother drowned.

The day before the wedding, as Rachel, Kym, and the other bride's maids are getting their hair done, Kym is approached by a man who she knew in an earlier stint in rehab. He thanks her for the strength she gave him through a story about her childhood sexual abuse at the hands of an uncle. Rachel, hearing this, storms out. The story, it turns out, was all a lie, an apparent attempt by Kym to evade responsibility for her addiction. The sisters' fight comes to a head later that night, leading Kym to escape to her mother's house. However, she finds no respite there, as a fight with her mother comes to blows. She runs off again, this time intentionally crashing her car into a tree, and sleeps the night in the car.

The next morning, the day of the wedding, Kym is awoken by police. After passing a sobriety test, she gets a ride home. She makes her way to Rachel's room, as Rachel prepares for the wedding. Seeing Kym's bruised face, the anger of the previous night vanishes, and Rachel tenderly bathes and dresses Kym.

Amid a festive Indian theme, Rachel and her fiancé are wed. Kym is the maid of honor, and is overcome with emotion as the couple exchange their vows. Kym tries to enjoy herself throughout the wedding reception, but continues to feel out of place and is nagged by the unresolved dispute with her mother. Ultimately, her mother leaves the party early, despite Rachel's effort to bring the two together, and the gulf between Kym and her mother is left unreconciled.

The next morning, Kym must return to rehab. As she is leaving, Rachel runs out of the house to hug her, their sisterly love remaining strong despite all that has passed between them.

Production

The screenplay was written by Jenny Lumet, the daughter of director Sidney Lumet and granddaughter of Lena Horne. Lumet, a junior high school drama teacher, has written four earlier screenplays, but this was the first to be produced. The film is directed by Jonathan Demme, and was shot in Stamford, Connecticutmarker in a naturalistic style. The working title for the film was originally Dancing with Shiva.

It was Sidney Lumet himself who approached Demme about his daughter Jenny's script. Demme has commented that he loved Jenny's flagrant disregard for the rules of formula, her lack of concern for making her characters likable in the conventional sense and for what he considered to be her bold approach to truth, pain, and humor.

Filming took 33 days and occurred in late 2007.

Cast

Actor/Actress Role Description
Anne Hathaway Kym Rachel's sister, who's been in and out of rehab
Rosemarie DeWitt Rachel Kym's sister, who's to be married
Bill Irwin Paul Kym and Rachel's father
Debra Winger Abby Kym and Rachel's estranged mother
Tunde Adebimpe Sidney Rachel's soon-to-be husband
Mather Zickel Kieran Kym's love interest, who has also been in rehab but is now clean; also the best man and Sidney's best friend
Anna Deavere Smith Carol Paul's wife
Anisa George Emma Rachel's best friend
Jerome LePage Andrew Abby's husband
Carol-Jean Lewis Sidney's Mother
Fab 5 Freddy Himself Cameo appearance


Casting

Demme had wanted to work with Anne Hathaway ever since he spotted her in a crowd at a screening five years earlier. He immediately took her in consideration for the role of Kym. Hathaway later said of her first reading Lumet's script: "I was in my old apartment in the West Village [Manhattan], just pacing back and forth between the kitchen table and the couch. I somehow wound up on the floor sobbing by the last page."

Rosemarie DeWitt was considered by the film's casting directors. Demme and the rest of the crew were impressed and immediately wanted her to play Rachel. Bill Irwin is one of Demme's dear friends and neighbor.

Tunde Adebimpe's role, Sidney, was originally offered to American film director Paul Thomas Anderson while he was working on the post-production of the movie There Will Be Blood.

Demme was concerned about Debra Winger's interest in doing the film, but he pumped up his courage to ask her because they had met several times before at the Jacob Burns Center, a film center close to their homes. Winger later accepted the role of Abby.

Critical reception

The film received generally positive reviews from critics. Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune called the film "a triumph of ambience," and that Hathaway, DeWitt, Irwin and especially Winger are working at a very high level. Roger Ebert's four-star rating added, "apart from the story, which is interesting enough, Rachel Getting Married is like the theme music for an evolving new age." Other critics praised Jonathan Demme for USA Today "a career of cinematic good works" (Andrew Sarris of the New York Observer) and "his best film since The Silence of the Lambs...as raw as Ingmar Bergman and as operatic as Mildred Pierce (Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly).

Peter Travers noted that Rachel Getting Married is "a home run...[it goes] deep into the joy and pain of being human."A.O. Scott of the New York Times said that the film has an undeniable and authentic vitality, an exuberance of spirit that feels welcome and rare.

Many reviewers praised the film for its organic, unfussy feel; Salon reviewer Stephanie Zacharek noted that "with 'Rachel Getting Married,' Demme has once again scaled back, making a picture that has some of the ease and warmth of his earlier movies, although it also feels stripped down and direct in a way that's new for Demme."USA Today proclaimed: "After a foray in documentary films, director Jonathan Demme has returned to narrative storytelling, assuming a decidedly cinéma vérité style that has echoes of Robert Altman. The film's greatest asset is the sense of cringing realism in portraying dinner parties and interpersonal encounters that can throw family members off-kilter." . The Los Angeles Times noted:"Helping give this story its essential air of reality is the decision Demme and cinematographer Quinn made to shoot it as what they call "the most beautiful home movie ever made." The director chose not to plan shots in advance, instead giving Quinn (whose credits include Mira Nair's "Monsoon Wedding") the ability to respond in the moment to what was going on with the actors, and it's a tribute to his ability (and that of editor Tim Squyres) that his camera always seems to be in the right place at the right time." .

Anne Hathaway won raves for her work as Kym. USA Today called her "wonderful... [Kym's] nervous laughter, edginess and quick temper blend convincingly with her need for attention and vulnerability."Newsweek commented: "Kym is a major pain in the ass, and Hathaway's raw, spiky performance makes no attempt to ingratiate. Yet she makes Kym's inner torment so palpable you can't help but feel for her, however insufferable she may be. It's a terrific performance..." . Empire felt that "Kym is a peach of a role — she sleeps with the best man, fights with the maid of honour, quips, 'You’re so thin, it’s like you’re Asian' — and Hathaway squeezes it for all the juice it’s worth, making this raw-nerved, narcissistic Tasmanian Devil not just believable, but somehow likable."

The film currently holds an overall 86% at Rotten Tomatoes and a 94% from selected "top critics".

Top ten lists

The film appeared on many critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2008.





Music

A diverse array of musicians, actually played by director Jonathan Demme's son Brooklyn and his friends, attend Rachel's wedding performing both before and after the ceremony. Various musical soundtrack themes are played "live" during the film.

Rachel's husband Sidney sings an a cappella cover of Neil Young's "Unknown Legend" (1992) during the nuptials. Tunde Adebimpe, who played Sidney, is the lead singer of the popular art-rock band TV on the Radio.

Awards and nominations

Awards
Award Category Name Results
Academy Awards Best Actress Anne Hathaway Nominated
Austin Film Critics Association Best Actress Anne Hathaway Won
Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards Best Actress Anne Hathaway Won
Best Cast Acting Ensemble Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards Best Actress Anne Hathaway Won
Best Supporting Actor Bill Irwin Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Rosemarie DeWitt Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Jenny Lumet Nominated
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards Best Actress Anne Hathaway Won
Detroit Film Critics Society Best Actress Anne Hathaway Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Rosemarie DeWitt Nominated
Best Ensemble Nominated
Best Newcomer Rosemarie DeWitt Nominated
EDA Annual Achievement Awards Best Ensemble Cast Won
Best Woman Screenwriter Jenny Lumet Won
Golden Globe Awards Best Actress - Drama Anne Hathaway Nominated
Gotham Awards Breakthrough Actor Rosemarie DeWitt Nominated
Best Ensemble Cast Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Bill Irwin
Tunde Adebimpe, Anna Deavere Smith
Anisa George, Debra Winger

Nominated
Houston Film Critics Society Best Actress Anne Hathaway Won
Independent Spirit Awards Best Film Nominated
Best Director Jonathan Demme Nominated
Best First Screenplay Jenny Lumet Nominated
Best Lead Female Anne Hathaway Nominated
Best Supporting Female Rosemarie DeWitt Nominated
Best Supporting Female Debra Winger Nominated
National Board of Review Awards Best Actress Anne Hathaway Won
New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Screenplay Jenny Lumet Won
Palm Springs International Film Festival Desert Palms Achievement Award for Best Actress Anne Hathaway Won
Satellite Awards Best Supporting Actress Rosemarie DeWitt Won
Best Actress - Drama Anne Hathaway Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role Anne Hathaway Nominated
Southeastern Film Critics Association Best Actress Anne Hathaway Won
St. Louis Film Critics Association Best Actress Anne Hathaway Nominated
Utah Film Critics Association Best Supporting Actress Rosemarie DeWitt Won
Best Screenplay Jenny Lumet Won
Venice Film Festival Golden Lion Nominated
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Best Supporting Actress Rosemarie DeWitt Won
Best Screenplay Jenny Lumet Won


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