Rachel Getting Married (2009)

Neurotic young women closely observed make for great movies. Such films set themselves a splendid challenge: can they keep the audience roughly on-side? Kym – our anti-heroine in this piece – is a perfect case in point.

Kym (Anne Hathaway) keeps taking us to the brink of serious irritation. In scene after scene she hogs the attention, constantly dragging the preparations for her sister’s wedding round to her own very needy needs. And then we start to notice that she is grabbing our sympathy, too. It’s not at all that she’s unstable or mentally unwell, though she is probably those. It’s more that contrariwise she seems the most alive of the gathered near-bohemians.

One must be careful, and the masterly Jonathan Demme seems to have been. I have what I call a “Cuckoo Metre”. This is the tiny but noisy siren which goes off whenever film-makers stray into any of the errors  made by One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1995).

These sins include saying the well have much to learn from the unwell; that it’s the unwell who are sane, really; and that institutions never really understand their inmates.

In this piece Kym is on weekend-release from the rehab which drug addiction and guilt and grief has brought her to. But my Cuckoo Meter didn’t fire. The point is, I think, that Kym is a clever young person and an outsider, and one way or another her Bullshit Meter is in fine condition.

Set loose for a weekend amongst a fantastically creative, charming and above all politically-correct group, she lets off a series of squibs which often make one cringe, and aren’t always well-aimed. But some are, and then they are priceless.

I haven’t seen such a strong impersonation of a neurotic woman since Holly Hunter came close to bunny- boiling in Crazy In Love (1992). That movie, of course, was an essay in the healing power of women, in the manner of a How To Make An American Quilt (1995), in which Winona Ryder was put right by some good old American broads.

Rachel Getting Married is a stronger piece than any of those: less feel-good, sharper. A little too long.

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Publication date

16 February 2009


On movies