Crash this wedding

Magnificence permeates Demme-Hathaway artistic marriage

Rachel Getting Married
Starring Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt and Mather Zickel. Directed by Jonathan Demme. Rated R.
Rated 5.0

As Rachel Getting Married moved from film festivals to wide release, buzz started building for the performance of Anne Hathaway. She’s not Rachel—she’s Kym, Rachel’s sister, who gets a weekend pass from rehab for the titular wedding. Her performance is revelatory, light years beyond The Princess Diaries and furthering her artistic growth from Havoc and Brokeback Mountain. Believe the hype.

To dwell on Hathaway, though, is to miss what makes Rachel magnificent. From start to finish, foreground to background, audio to visuals, it’s a holistic experience: funny, sad, exuberant, wrenching, raw, absorbing and real. Audience members aren’t flies on the wall; we’re guests for the weekend, living through the family drama that unfolds before our eyes.

Of course, the prodigal-problem-child story has been told before. Not like this—not the way Jenny Lumet (Sydney’s daughter) tells it, with characters as fully formed and transcending cliché, and not the way Jonathan Demme marries Lumet’s screenplay with subtle filmmaking. He’s made a home movie in all senses of the word. His actors don’t act; they become. Rosemarie DeWitt is the put-upon bride; Mather Zickel is the A.A.-attending best man; the Debra Winger is the detached mother, just faintly recognizable from her starring roles.

Hathaway deserves her accolades. She may well make an Oscar speech. If she does, rest assured she’ll heap praise on others. Rachel Getting Married is a complete success, in no small measure due to the director, writer and supporting cast. Please accept this invitation to a most special event.