Weddings, addictions and embarassing afflictions


Rachel Getting Married: 113 minutes. Rated: M. Director: Jonathan Demme. Starring: Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Mather Zickel, Bill Irwin, Tunde Adebimpe

Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting MarriedIdiopathic hyperhydrosis is an embarrassing and unpleasant affliction. Discussion of it does not constitute polite conversation in any but the most intimate of social circles.

I discovered this from experience. Even technical-sounding explanations featuring phrases such as 'overactive sympathetic nervous system' and 'inordinate quantities of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine' do little to stifle the listener's distaste.

So I'll spare the details. Suffice it to say that by the time I arrive at the cinema complex, after a ride on a tram packed and muggy with smelly sports fans (the city is crawling with Australian Open tourists), and a short jog through the 39-degree heat (a strategy against tardiness), I am icky, sticky, and more than a little self-conscious.

I'm here for a screening of the finely observed domestic drama, Rachel Getting Married. As the film commences it occurs to me that perhaps my obvious but unmentionable discomfort gives me some insight into the central character.

Kym (Hathaway) is the flaky sister of the titular bride (DeWitt). Her affliction is more serious and debilitating than mine: she's a recovering addict, home from rehab to help celebrate Rachel's nuptials.

There's a superficial niceness to the proceedings that, with the arrival of Kym, seems smeared with a sickly sheen. From the time of her return to her family home, amid a hubbub of guests and preparations, Kym is the proverbial leper, object in equal parts of pity and repulsion.

Yes, I reflect, mopping my brow. I know how that feels.

On the subject of embarrassing afflictions, here's another: I get motion sickness during movies. That's a shameful admission for a film reviewer to make, although it only occurs during films with shaky hand-held camera work, or if I am sitting too close to the front.

Rachel Getting Married has the former — director Demme approaches the everyday interactions between family and friends, and the preparations for the celebration itself, with a realist, almost documentary approach. An effective cinematic technique, certainly. But, for me, conducive to queasiness.

To make matters worse, due to my lateness and the resultant lack of spare seats, I have found myself sitting not only too close to the front, but off to the side in an oddly oblong cinema, so that the screen is nauseatingly close at one end, dizzyingly distant at the other.

My proximity to this looming parallelogram has a psychological as well as a physiological impact; it heightens the film's emotional distortions. Kym's father, Paul (Irwin) is over-protective of Kym, and fond to a fault; overcompensation, perhaps — it could be that he feels responsible for his daughter's ill-chosen paths.

Meanwhile, Kym and Rachel are close as sisters can be. Yet Kym's self-centredness, and Rachel's long harboured hurt and anger towards her sister, scar the warm bond they share.

Even Kym's newly commenced sort-of love affair with nice guy Kieran (Zickel) has its dysfunctions — not only is Kieran a member of her 12 Step support group, he is also, coincidentally, best man at the wedding.

Ugly revelations are to come. There is tragedy in this family's history, connected to, but far greater than, Kym's struggle with addiction. This is the stampeding elephant in the room. It means all the superficial niceness is churning and darkly gaseous underneath.

I know how that feels, too. My own discomforts are exacerbated by the length and detail Demme applies to the film's backdrop, the wedding — an annoying, bohemian-lite affair, with a tumble of musician and artist friends pitching in, and a spontaneous, a cappella Neil Young cover at the altar by groom Sidney (Adebimpe).

I like Neil Young, but that gesture is one slice too many of pungent cheese. By the time the closing credits arrive I am well and truly ready to depart.

Don't get me wrong; Rachel at the Wedding is a good film, with strong performances, particularly from Hathaway. But it is uncomfortable viewing, and I've had all the discomfort I can take for today.

Rachel Getting Married official website

Tim KroenertTim Kroenert is Assistant Editor of Eureka Street. His articles and reviews have been published by The Age, Inside Film, the Brisbane Courier Mail and The Big Issue.


Topic tags: Rachel Getitng Married, Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Debra Winger, Jonathan Demme



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Existing comments

Just a comment - nothing to do with the review or the film! Motion sickness. I get it too and couldn't watch much of Kenny. It's rather put me off going to the cinema at all.
Mary Lancaster | 19 February 2009

Personal comment for Tim: The Herrmann Brain Dominance test includes such queries as 'Have you ever experienced motion sickness?' Herrmann maintains that people who are right-quadrant dominant (more artistic, emotional and spiritual) are also more motion-sensitive.

Like YOU and like ME! (who threw up twice during Kenny f'rinstance)
glen avard | 19 February 2009

You save me lots of money Tim - thanks - with your excellent reviews I don't have to actually see the movie.
Les | 19 February 2009

Another great review, Tim. Keep up the good work (well, not the motion sickness, I feel sorry for you there, bud).
Brett | 20 February 2009

Never, but never watch a NZ Film Unit short about helicopter borne deer culling (which I cut some years ago). The director thought it a bright idea to invite a veteran helicopter pilot ex Viet Nam war to see the early cuts, and he had to escape the theatre die to extreme nausea. A tip: the smaller the screen, the less the effect, I cut it on a Moviola which had a screen about 5 inches wide.
Ross | 20 February 2009


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