Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
Rachel Getting Married took an oddly joyous look at addiction recovery centered on a joyously odd wedding — the perfect blend of acidic humor and dramatic empathy at which director Jonathan Demme so often excels.
In Demme’s most deeply felt fictional film since Philadelphia, a wedding’s musical multiculturalism provided an intoxicating aesthetic, not an indulgent bore. Plus, Rachel contained three of 2008’s finest performances — all towering examples of how small-scale minutiae of mannerisms can surpass grand acting gestures.
Kym (Anne Hathaway) is a recovering drug user headed home on the eve of older sister Rachel’s (Rosemarie DeWitt) marriage. Though supportive of Kym’s struggles, Rachel still resents the spotlight shone on her by overprotective dad Paul (Bill Irwin). All share the burden of distance from Abby (Debra Winger), the girls’ mother and Paul’s ex-wife.
This ensemble creates a feeling of fractured family that endows Rachel’s recovery arc with a sense of fragility and fury. A rehearsal dinner feels so uncannily natural that, were it not for famous faces, you’d swear it was a home video with rapturously involving cinematography.
Hathaway lets her usually chipper guard down for a career-best performance. DeWitt matches her, torn between sisterly love and the desire to have one memorable life moment for herself. And Irwin conveys paternal pride and, eventually, deflation even in a scene of competitive dishwasher loading.
Rachel sounds like a downer, but an exuberant wedding-and-reception finale examined the slow and incomplete, but true, power of rehabilitative strength and forgiveness.