Jonathan Demme has a knack for directing award-winning films and then disappearing into thin air. He looked like the hottest thing in the early '90s when he directed one of the all-time best horror/suspense films, Silence of the Lambs, for which he won a best director Oscar. Then was his heart wrenching Philadelphia, a film garnering Tom Hanks a best actor nod, before dropping into relative obscurity. His few films between 1993 and 2008 received little recognition. It seems what was old is now new again as Demme has thrown off the shackles of inadequate filmmaking and returned to his old form, blending the best aspects of Lambs and Philadelphia in his newest film Rachel Getting Married. No, Rachel is not a horror film and does not deal with HIV and homosexuality, but it is suspenseful and heart-wrenching.
The story follows Kym (Anne Hathaway), who has been dealing with drug problems throughout most of her young life. She has been in and out of rehabilitation programs ever since her drug habit caused a horrific accident that killed her younger brother. Kym has been given a pass from rehab to her sister Rachel's wedding. She arrives home only to find that most in the house do not seem that happy to see her and the usual family battles ensue. The film takes a refreshing and understated approach with its portrayal of interracial marriage, blending the families together well and focuses on the issues surrounding the relatives and Kym's past drug habits. Demme could just as easily have cast the part of Rachel's fiance as a Caucasian man rather than an African-American one, however had this been the case, some of the beauty of the film might have been lost.
This focus facilitates Rachel Getting Married's emotional rollercoaster feel. Seemingly shot on a very small budget, the film takes place over the course of three days and basically follows the entire wedding. Demme uses one camera for the most part to follow each cast member throughout the household, which adds an interesting dynamic to the film. Instead of cutting between different shots and angles, he tries to create the realistic effect of this being a home video. The only time two separate cameras are used is when Rachel's future brother-in-law is shooting on a smaller digital camera. The visual feel of the film might discourage some viewers, but only adds to the tension and realistic feel of the situation. All of these factors make Rachel Getting Married a must-see film this Oscar season.