Rachel Getting My Attention

On Saturday night, Andy and I went to see a very good movie called Rachel Getting Married.

Before I proceed, let me beg you to stay. Please don’t avoid this post if you haven’t seen (but wish to see) this film. Rachel Getting Married isn’t the sort of movie that can be “ruined” by spoilers. Movies like this, that succeed on character rather than plot, are my favorite kind of stories. It can’t quite be described; it must be witnessed. What I am trying to say is this: please see Rachel Getting Married and please read my post about it, not necessarily in that order.

Every time I find myself wanting to write here about a TV show, a movie, or some music that I have recently loved or hated, I am confronted with the truth that I am not a reviewer. That’s why the blog medium works for me. On a personal blog, the writing is too much connected to the writer and his or her experiences to be taken as objective. This is by nature a subjective medium. The things I say on my blog aren’t meant to be definitive, static, educated opinions. This may surprise you, but in the movie world, my name carries very little weight. I am not Roger Ebert, and for that I am glad because without pressure and expectations, I can use the pretext of reviewing Rachel Getting Married to tell you that I have fallen in love with Rosemarie DeWitt.

Anne Hathaway is obviously and deservedly the star of this movie, but as the title character, Rosemarie DeWitt garnered more of my attention than anyone else on the screen. The first time I saw her, I said to myself, “Self, who is this lovely creature?” While I can’t be certain that this movie was my first exposure to DeWitt (in fact, on Sunday night, I realized that she plays what is so far the small role of Toni Collette’s sister on The United States of Tara), I can be sure that this is the first time I noticed her. Her face has that seemingly impossible combination of steel and fragility that Mary-Louise Parker’s does. She seems always about to break, but we know that she never will.

DeWitt’s Rachel is an older sister who loves her younger sister despite the latter being a destructive drug addict. Indeed, this relationship is at the heart of the movie’s story, which is one of the things that makes it stand out for me. I love that Rachel’s name is in the title even though one could argue that the movie is more about Anne Hathaway’s Kym wrestling with her guilt than about Rachel’s wedding.

Another somewhat unique aspect of this movie is that it is largely shot using handheld cameras, which gives it a “home movie” quality that is at once engaging and uncomfortable. There were times when I, as a viewer, felt voyeuristic, as if I shouldn’t be eavesdropping on these peoples’ private moments.

The third point I want to make about Rachel Getting Married is Debra Winger. I have loved Debra Winger for a long time. I’m not going to be making any groundbreaking observations if I suggest that her voice is a singular, steady, sonorous force. More than wanting to meet Debra Winger, I want her to call and leave me a voice message. Of course, Debra Winger’s ability is not limited to the distinctiveness of her voice, and she doesn’t disappoint in Rachel Getting Married. Although her role is relatively small, it is memorable. She is fiercely guarded and unwilling to admit her own complicity in her family’s tragedy, yet a strain of vulnerability shines through her careful detachment.

I was surprised not by how good Rachel Getting Married was but by how much I liked it. I appreciate it when a movie can blend the serious with the funny in a way that feels organic, not deliberate.