Rachel Getting Married (UK - BD)
Marcus is invited to a wedding and gets more drama than he bargained for...
Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) is getting married and as with weddings generally, it's a time for friends and family to come together for the big event. All set at the family home, everyone is preparing for the big day; guests are arriving and catching up, musicians play in rooms filling the atmosphere with excitement and happiness. Then youngest daughter Kym (Anne Hathaway) returns home from her drug rehab stint and the mood shifts. Family tensions build as they all struggle to keep Rachel’s marriage the main focus of the weekend and buried family issues come back to the surface.
Jonathan Demme has delivered one hell of an effective movie with Rachel Getting Married. Telling the story in an almost fly on the wall documentary style, Demme captures the mood of Rachel’s wedding weekend with a naturalistic flavour and somehow manages to sell much of the story's drama within the realms of this semi realistic backdrop (I say semi realistic because there’s no way the mixed and varied themes of this wedding would please each and every one of its guests like it seems to).
Capturing the atmosphere of the hustle and bustle of the house by following cast around with cameras, either individually or within large groups, Demme subtly delivers small but effective emotional moments from the characters in shots that almost feel as if they caught on camera by sheer fluke. Moments where you see the girls' father, played by the great Bill Irwin have a small glimmer of sadness sweep across his face in reaction to one of Kym’s comments or a friend or extended family member holding back a reaction for the sake of not wanting to spoil Rachel’s wedding. It's all beautifully constructed and really makes the stories unravelling feel personal and realistic, without ever losing that movie drama quality.
As the story moves on we get a real insight into what is at the core of this largely unspoken family problem that has seemingly affected Kym more than most. We discover that the family had suffered a loss and had tried to move on without pointing fingers at Kym, who is seemingly the one to blame for the tragedy. Having this amount of unspoken tension within the realms of the build up to a large wedding really shows off the added pressure on the family politics and makes way for some fine performances. Captured expertly by Demme, these big family stand offs arrive in true family fashion, not when you expect them but after the smallest of comments or actions between members.
At front and centre of the Buchman family we get Anne Hathaway, in her Oscar nominated role as Kym. Not to take anything away from her, but she delivers the most obvious role in movie. She’s pumped full of angst and wise-cracks (all while holding a cigarette of course) and even though her performance grows to be great, I personally felt she was outshined by the cast around her. For starters, I found Rosemarie DeWitt‘s performance as Rachel to be the one I connected to the most. I loved how she held it all together for the family and her wedding’s sake but she’s fantastic when she does erupt. I found Debra Winger’s role as the girls' mother to be complex and well restrained and as I briefly mentioned before, Bill Irwin’s performance as the girl’s father is probably the one that sells the heartbreak of this families underlying problems with the most effect. This friendly, playful character only needs to tear up or look a little sad and the weight of this situation hits you with real resonance.
Rachel Getting Married, is a somewhat unique experience without doing anything overly showy. As an audience member you come away almost feeling as if you were a guest at this multi-cultured and exciting wedding and that you almost haphazardly happened upon some personal family moments that you monitored as the weekend went on. There are a few scenes where this illusion breaks down, none of which affect the overall but generally I found Rachel Getting Married to have exactly the right mix of heartbreak, subtlety and frankly good feeling that I wholeheartedly enjoy in a good drama and it was a bloody good wedding too.
I didn’t expect the movie to look this good. I expected camcorder-esq quality, lots of grain and a gritty realism to it all. However, Rachel Getting Married actually has a pretty great naturally lit, clean transfer.
Demme has his movie looking alive and vibrant with great use of muted and warm colours, but without it ever feeling too much like a movie. This is a real house with a real atmosphere, and other than the fact every room has all its lights on no matter what time of day it is to keep the scenes lit, everything just feels so lived in and real.
There is the occasional hint of grain and contrast levels can sometimes be overdone, but never enough to be considered distracting, especially considering the movie's digital handheld style. Rachel Getting Married was a thoroughly impressive transfer for its genre and overall was a pleasant surprise even if it’s lo-fi visuals stop it being a real stand out in the ever growing Blu-ray catalogue.
This movie is all about playing with moods and the audio does a fine job creating them. When scenes are dialogue driven they are mostly clear and realistic sounding within the rooms of the house, despite a few muffled moments. Crowded scenes capture small conversations and background dialogue well even with the restraints of the relatively low budget approach to the movie and there’s a real sense of space when there needs to be.
What really shows off the track is the use of the live music happening around the house. Instruments sounds fantastic—strings and horns in particular. Arguably the volume levels can pop a bit too high every now and again within the track, but with the music being such an important part of what makes this movie what it is, there’s not a moment here where it’s not presented fantastically well, capturing that live feeling and making it a real presence in the movie's proceedings.
Rachel Getting Married comes with two commentaries. The first has producer Neda Arman, screenwriter Jenny Lumet and editor Tim Squires. It’s a fairly good commentary with lots of detail about the production and some really great technical details about the editing challenges that came with the live music being played in the scenes. The second, with Rachel herself, Rosemarie Dewitt, is full of more insight and feelings on movie, and even if it has a few more empty spaces, it complements the movie quite nicely.
Moving onto the featurettes, we get ‘The Wedding Band’ (07:47 SD) which takes a closer look at the use of music in the movie and ‘A Look Behind the Scenes of Rachel Getting Married' (15:48 SD) which focuses a lot on casting and the filming technique.
Lastly the ‘Cast & Crew Q&A’ (49:20 SD) runs out of steam pretty fast (especially with the lack of Anne Hathaway and a few other notable absences). Demme provides the most interesting insights but generally this didn’t seem led enough to remain interesting for nearly fifty minutes.
Rounding up there are nine deleted scenes (18:52 SD), the theatrical trailer and trailers for Nick and Norah, Seven Pounds, Blu-ray is High Definition and The Jane Austen Book Club, and a BD-Live selection.
I really enjoyed hanging out with the Buchman family at their eldest daughter's wedding. The music was good, the company enjoyable and the odd blow ups that the family members had after Kym turned up made for some great drama, especially when discovering where it all stemmed from.
The video quality of the event was sharp and impressive in its realism and while the audio does nothing staggering the live music was a joy. As for extras, there were plenty but none that I’d rush back to. All in all this wedding video comes with my blessings.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 29th June 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English, Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Italian, Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Spanish, English ADS
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Hindi, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish
Extras: Featurettes, Commentaries, Trailer, Deleted Scenes
Easter Egg: No
Director: Johnathan Demme
Cast: Anne Hathaway, Bill Irwin, Rosemarie DeWitt
Length: 112 minutes
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