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Jonathan Demme
Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Mather Zickel, Bill Irwin, Anna Deavere Smith, Anisa George, Tunde Adebimpe, Debra Winger
Writing Credits:
Jenny Lumet

When Kym (Anne Hathaway), returns to the Buchman family home for the wedding of her sister Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt), she brings a long history of personal crises, family conflict and tragedy along with her. The wedding couple's abundant party of friends and relations have gathered for a joyful weekend of feasting, music and love, but Kym - with her biting one-liners and flair for bombshell drama - is a catalyst for long-simmering tensions in the family dynamic. Filled with the rich and eclectic characters that remain a hallmark of Jonathan Demme's films, Rachel Getting Married paints a heartfelt, perceptive and sometimes hilarious family portrait.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$293.369 thousand on 9 screens.
Domestic Gross
$12.354 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Surround 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 113 min.
Price: $28.96
Release Date: 3/10/2009

• Audio Commentary with Producer Neda Armian, Screenwriter Jenny Lumet and Editor Tim Squyres
• Audio Commentary with Actor Rosemarie DeWitt
• “A Look Behind the Scenes of Rachel Getting Married” Featurette
• “The Wedding Band” Featurette
• “Cast and Crew Q&A” Featurette
• Trailer
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Rachel Getting Married (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 5, 2009)

When Anne Hathaway became a star via the Princess Diaries flicks, she seemed primed to follow a squeaky clean path to continued popularity and employment. However, she chose a different route, as Hathaway selected a few more challenging, “adult” roles. Sure, she’s taken on some “chick flick” comedy flicks like Bridal Wars and The Devil Wears Prada, but she also popped up in the edgy Havoc as well as Brokeback Mountain.

With 2008’s Rachel Getting Married, Hathaway’s work elevated her to rarified status as an Oscar nominee. She didn’t win the Best Actress trophy, but her nomination sure does make those Princess Diaries films seem like they existed a long time ago.

In Married, we meet Kym Buchman (Hathaway), a walking train wreck of a young woman just out of rehab after nine months. Her dad Paul (Bill Irwin) picks her up to take her to the wedding of her sister Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) and Sidney (Tunde Adebimpe). The film tracks Kym’s attempts to cope with her recovery process all throughout the the lead-up to the wedding and various bits of family drama that emerge along the way.

I like Hathaway and I think she’s talented, so I wanted to see her do well in Married. However, after my screening of the film, I think her skills fare best in the comedic realm. She proves bright and dynamic in those flicks, whereas during Married, I don’t see a whole lot of naturalism at work.

Instead, I get the sense that Hathaway’s usually Acting With a Capital “A”. She suffers a bit from Tries Too Hard Syndrome, as she works so hard to embrace her inner addict that she goes over the top. Too much of the time, it feels like she swings for the fences and sacrifices the character’s sense of realism.

However, I don’t blame Hathaway, as the absurdity of the movie essentially forces her into high melodrama mode. I find it shocking that a director as established and talented as Jonathan Demme created a movie as messy and pointless as this one.

So here launches my standard rant against the overuse of handheld camerawork in modern cinema. Apparently Demme has bought into the concept that loose, random shots somehow make a movie more “real” than well-framed, thought-out elements do. That’s a myth, as there’s nothing inherently more involving and believable about a “documentary-style” flick than a more traditional one.

That fact comes out in spades through the rambling tedium of Married. Demme goes farther than usual in the way he blurs the lines, as some shots actually incorporate camcorder images filmed by wedding guests. This seems perplexing; does this imply that folks on the scene filmed the whole movie? Why cut to these elements when most of the film isn’t supposed to come from that perspective?

Because it’s a semi-clever gimmick that momentarily distracts us from the nothingness at the heart of Married. Too much of the film feels like an experiment with nowhere to go. Take the “score”, for example. Rather than use a more traditional score with off-screen musicians, Married only offers music that appears naturally during the various scenes.

This means recorded songs played at times, but mostly the music comes from the musicians hired to play the wedding. God, they play endless variations on the same tuneless nonsense throughout the film; one of the flick’s few satisfying moments occurs when an irritated Kym finally requests that they cease the endless caterwauling. This doesn’t last for long; geez, the musicians continue to play well after the wedding ends! Demme either should’ve opted for no music at all to really embrace the documentary feel, or he should’ve gone with a traditional score. His choice adds another layer of irritating unreality to the experience.

Speaking of irritating, the film features a non-stop parade of annoying personalities. Perhaps it’s a sign of “post-racial USA” that Married presents a ridiculously multicultural crew of folks and never comments on them. Actually, I don’t mind the lack of commentary; I mind the self-conscious, Bennetton ad mindset. Some may find it charming that Rachel chooses an Indian motif for the wedding even though she’s white and Sidney’s black. I think it’s pretentious as all get out, and the movie’s smug multi-culti feel grates from the very start. I just loathed these people.

All of these annoyances could be excused if Married actually had a point – or even a real perspective. For the most part, it sticks with Kym’s point of view, but it deviates often enough to lose focus. The film either should’ve stayed with Kym or it shouldn’t have concentrated on her at all.

Honestly, the latter approach would’ve been more interesting. Treat Kym as a supporting character and take a “fly on the wall” perspective for the whole wedding weekend. Let moments play out naturally and don’t interject Kym as the story’s focal point. The film jumps from one perspective to another without much logic, and it digresses too much.

Probably the biggest flaw here comes from the radical amount of filler found here. Many scenes just will not end, as they ramble way past their expiration dates. Take the rehearsal party at which every wacky character gets to reflect on the bride and groom. None of these bits go anywhere; they just fill time and add nothing to the experience. Perhaps if the movie took the approach I mentioned earlier in which it would simply follow the weekend without a focus on Kym, these components would make more sense.

As it stands, we’re waiting for something to happen with Kym, so the endless nonsense makes us intensely impatient. Maybe the filmmakers figured these scenes would add reality to the situation, and that it would be less believable to run a story filled with nothing but story and character drama.

And maybe they’re right, but in this instance, it doesn’t work. We’re simply stuck with too many never-ending sequences that fail to go anywhere. These don’t heighten the drama – they negate it. We find ourselves so bored with the characters and the situations that the more dramatic bits fall flat. We never invest in these pretentious, tedious folks, so who cares about their conflicts?

Really, there’s maybe 20 minutes of movie here padded out to almost two hours with pointless inanity. I started my review with criticism of Hathaway, but the more I think about it, the more I feel I should retract any blame. She overdoes things at times, but I can’t blame her, as she probably just felt she had to work doubly hard to redeem this catastrophe.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

Rachel Getting Married appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Shot “documentary style”, the transfer came with some related limitations but it usually looked fine.

Sharpness seemed good to acceptable. The shooting style meant lots of out of focus elements, but those had nothing to do with the transfer itself. Most of the time, the DVD featured delineation that was perfectly appropriate for the various shots. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, though I noticed some light edge haloes. Source flaws also remained absent; the format meant a moderate amount of grain, but otherwise this was a clean presentation.

Colors tended to be low-key. The film boasted a natural palette, but it generally downplayed the different tones. Though the hues never seemed memorable, they were fine for what I expected. Blacks looked solid, while shadows were a bit erratic. Usually the low-light shots seemed fine, but a few seemed somewhat dense. Overall, this was a satisfying presentation given its roots.

Similar thoughts greeted the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Married. General ambience ruled the day. The movie eschewed a traditional score, as it instead preferred “found music” that came from the wedding musicians.

That meant the “score” really was part of the environmental side of things. The music popped up from the appropriate spots based on the positioning of the musicians, so it became part of the soundscape. The film didn’t feature many prominent effects, as it went with a low-key soundfield. Sequences like a storm added a little pizzazz, but don’t expect much from this track. It used the five speakers in an appropriate manner but wasn’t memorable.

And that was fine, as a more dynamic soundfield would’ve been out of place. Audio quality was good. Speech appeared natural and crisp, without edginess or other concerns. Music stayed in the background most of the time; as I mentioned, the “score” was closer to an effects component than anything else. The music became more dynamic during the wedding, as it entered the forefront and showed good reproduction. In terms of those effects, they appeared clear and accurate. This was a perfectly complement track that suited the movie.

A good mix of extras fleshes out this release. We find two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from producer Neda Armian, screenwriter Jenny Lumet and editor Tim Squyres. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific look at script and story issues, cast, characters and performances, sets and locations, audio design and the use of music, editing and continuity, working with director Jonathan Demme, and various technical issues.

Some very good information emerges during this commentary, especially when we learn more about the complexities of the shoot. Squyres becomes the most useful participant in that domain, as he provides solid insights into the various challenges. Lumet also tosses out some interesting stories such as how a dinner with Bob Fosse and her father Sidney Lumet influenced the film’s dishwasher scene.

Unfortunately, too much of the commentary drags. We get a bit of dead air and a whole lot of praise. In addition, the women tend to simply identify on-screen participants and don’t tell us much about them. This is a generally informative track but not a great one.

By the way, here’s my early pick for The Most Hypocritical Commentary Moment of 2009: at one point, Lumet mocks “women of privilege”. Excuse me? The daughter of a famous, successful film director, a woman who was born with the proverbial silver spoon in her mouth - she’s in a position to make fun of the wealthy? Oh please. The hypocrisy found in that little jab astonishes me.

For the second commentary, we get a solo track from actor Rosemarie DeWitt. In her running, screen-specific discussion, the actor discusses other working with other members of the cast and crew, location elements, and factors related to the film’s unusual shooting style.

At her best, DeWitt offers good insights into what it was like on the set. She tells us a fair amount about the “on the fly” style and relates some useful nuggets. Unfortunately, she also goes silent much of the time, and she devotes way too much of her comments to praise; we’re constantly told that she loves various actors/crew/elements, and that everything is “amazing”. The chat includes some nice moments but doesn’t come with enough of those to sustain us over almost two hours.

Three featurettes follow. A Look Behind the Scenes of Rachel Getting Married runs 15 minutes, 46 seconds and includes notes from Lumet, DeWitt, Armian, director Jonathan Demme, director of photography Declan Quinn, and actors Anne Hathaway, Anisa George, Bill Irwin, Tunde Adebimpe, Mather Zickel, and Anna Deavere Smith.

“Look” examines the film’s style and scope, story and characters, cast and performances, camerawork, and music. The show gives us a moderately superficial take on the production, and it includes the usual abundance of praise. Nonetheless, it covers a few good topics and usually manages to overcome the fluffier tendencies despite its self-congratulatory moments.

During the seven-minute and 46-second The Wedding Band, we hear from Demme, Adebimpe, composer/violinist Zafer Tawil, and musicians Amir ElSaffar and Tareq Abboushi. “Band” looks at the movie’s music and unusual use of score. We get a smattering of interesting details about the flick’s unconventional soundtrack.

The “Featurettes” domain concludes with a Cast and Crew Q&A. It goes for 49 minutes, 17 seconds and features Demme, Armian, Quinn, Squyres, Tawil, Irwin, Zickel, first AD HH Cooper and music editor Suzana Peric. “Q&A” discusses the project’s development and Demme’s involvement, cast and performances, improvisation and the film’s shooting style, editing and music, and a few other production topics.

Note that only one-third of the program actually involves audience questions; the rest is more of a panel discussion. Not that this emphasis harms the piece, as it provides a pretty good examination of some elements related to the film. Unsurprisingly, a few stories and facts repeat from earlier components; this is the 97th time I’ve heard the genesis of the scene in which Kym wants the musicians to take a break. Nonetheless, we get some useful details in this generally informative program.

Negative footnote: the “Q&A” suffers from poor recording that required me to turn up my TV’s volume to a much higher level than normal. This meant a few bits like audience applause burst out of the set, and it also became hard to hear the participants at times. I still made it through the show, but the problematic volume levels cause distractions.

Nine Deleted Scenes fill a total of 19 minutes, 46 seconds. These include “1st 12-Step Meeting” (4:09), “2nd 12-Step Meeting” (1:48), “Kym and Keiran at Scotty’s Restaurant” (2:06), “Wedding Receiving Line” (2:10), “Kym and Keiran Talk In Basement” (2:02), “Kym and Rachel Driving to the Hair Salon” (1:26), “While Kym Is Away” (1:36), “Roger Corman at Backyard Reception” (0:58), and “More Rehearsal Dinner Speeches” (2:31).

Many of the scenes offer the same tedious nonsense in the final film. Both of the “12-Step” sequences are total wastes of time, and “Speeches” bores as well. Some of the others actually advance characters, though – which is probably why they were cut, since it’s clear the filmmakers preferred pointless scenes to useful ones. In particular, we learn a bit more about Keiran here; he’s left fairly undefined in the final film.

A few promos open the DVD. We get clips for Sugar, I’ve Loved You So Long, and Elegy. These also appear in the Previews area along with ads for Waltz With Bashir, Blu-Ray Disc, Synecdoche, New York, Passengers, The Class, Frozen River, Nothing But the Truth, What Doesn’t Kill You, I Served the King of England, The Children of Huang Shi, Ashes of Time Redux, Brick Lane and The Wackness. In addition, the DVD presents the theatrical trailer for Married.

If you’d like a dramatic examination of addiction and family tensions, look somewhere other than Rachel Getting Married. If you want a tedious compilation of endless scenes that go nowhere, this is your movie. Packed with irritating characters and contrived situations, this becomes an aggressively annoying movie without much to redeem it. The DVD offers fairly good picture and audio along with erratic but occasionally positive supplements. If you can get through Married without at least five declarations of “does this piece of crap ever end?” then you’ve got one up on me.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5652 Stars Number of Votes: 23
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