A Junkie's Promise...
Anne Hathaway, as Kym, in Jonathan Demme's Rachel Getting Married, is my kind of gal. What can I say? I'm like Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo, I have a type, but instead of an icy blondie like Kim Novak, I have a thing for dark-haired girls who wear all black, chain smoke cigarettes, have a couple of tattoos, fuck within minutes of meeting, have an eating disorder to match a serious smack and pill addiction, and in general, are terminally selfish enough to keep you enthralled or drive you to jump off a bridge, and Kym has all of those admirable qualities in spades.
Now usually, I'm skeptical of the "affluent white families are dysfunctional!" genre, but in without a doubt his best movie since Silence of the Lambs, Jonathan Demme--with a script from Jenny Lumet--has made an Altmanesque ensemble piece that is completely anchored by Hathaway's run and gun performance, equal parts sad and hilarious, that will hopefully bury her years of being a princess or bridezilla. As the family black sheep returning from a stint in rehab for her sister's wedding, the largely hand-held camera follows Kym as she stalks through every scene and room in her family house like a social terrorist ready to explode a suicide vest of acid-tipped barbs and self-centered indulgence at a moment's notice or merely hijack the attention and concern of every single person she encounters. Upon arrival, she immediately siphons off all of the consideration that would normally be devoted to her responsible "good" sister , Rachel of the title (played by Rosemarie DeWitt), who is practically her polar opposite. Her visit tears open the scar tissue that her family has been diligently maintaining during her extended absence in various facilities, and in doing so proves once again that we can only really hate those we love, and vice versa.
Demme's loose, improvisational style and gifted cast of professional and non-professional actors--including a very strong turn from Bill Irwin as the clan's beleaguered dad who just wants everything and everyone to get along--do the near impossible, create a wedding I might actually want to attend--I mean Fab 5 Freddy and the guy from TV on the Radio are there!--but also portrays a family, that chances are, if you are white, affluent, and dabble in dysfunction you already know or are living in. They love each other, but perhaps because of this fact are riven with unexamined resentment, denial, simmering anger, and in Kym's case, deep self-loathing over her years of self-destructive behavior and a past incident that nearly destroyed her family, and as soon as she returns nearly does again.
Families are weird, we have no say in how we end up with these people, and though one sometimes may wish it wasn't true, they're just as much a part of you as your organs. Not because you share the same DNA, but rather because you share the same life, and thus for better or worse their existence has an effect on you. Demme and Lumet certainly show the "worse" part of this particular equation, but are smart enough to show by the end how "worse" or in this case "worst", while never perfect, can become the "better", often because of our dysfunction, and not in spite of it.