At some point, when it became clear to my family that I enjoyed writing, they began to offer ideas for what I might write about. Especially my grandfather. And in almost every instance, the subject was the dinner we were having. I cannot tell you how many times my grandfather, sitting at the head of the table during a large family meal, has turned to me and said “you could make a story out of this dinner. You could write a whole story about it,” but I can tell you that it is many times. I’ve never taken his advice because I wouldn’t want to read a story about someone else’s family eating dinner, so I can’t imagine anyone would want to read about my family eating dinner. Also, what are you talking about, grandpa? But I feel like something similar happened in the writing of Rachel Getting Married. Someone was at a wedding and their grandfather turned to them and said “you could make a whole movie about this wedding,” and so they did.
Rachel at the Wedding Rachel Getting Married starts at a hospital where Anne Hathaway is getting teased by another patient about something to do with her destructive past. What did she do to end up in the hospital? Don’t worry, we will find out. We will find out A TON. Anne Hathaway’s father and step-mother pick her up to take her home to Connecticut for her sister Rachel’s wedding. Anne is brooding and dark in the backseat because her character is TROUBLED. This isn’t your daddy’s Princess Diaries. (Ew, your daddy has a Princess Diaries?) Anyway, what follows is two hours of a dysfunctional family being dysfunctional over the course of a weekend. There are a bunch of fights. Anne Hathaway will go to an AA meeting and then she will come home and fight, and then she will go to another AA meeting. There is a rehearsal dinner that is filmed in real time (seriously, that scene is like four hours long). It turns out that SPOILER ALERT Anne Hathaway was babysitting her baby brother when she decided to take a bunch of Percocet, and she ended up driving off a bridge and her brother died. That is why everyone hates her, which is a PRETTY GOOD REASON, ACTUALLY. Anyway, one night Anne Hathaway’s mom freaks out and punches her in the mouth for what happened, and Anne Hathaway slaps her in the face, and then Anne Hathaway drives her Mercedes Benz (because being white is hard) into a boulder and sleeps in the forest. The next morning, joggers find her and the police show up, and a tow truck drives her to the house where the wedding is about to begin. And suddenly, like Robin Williams healing Matt Damon with a magical hug in Good Will Hunting, much of the tension and anger of the entire movie has been released. Her sister bathes her? And then there is the United Colors of Benetton wedding. It is seriously like a college campus student committee event on the quad to celebrate diversity. The mom comes to the wedding but leaves early and everyone is like “wait, it turns out that we are all miserable jerks.” The next morning, Anne Hathaway heads back to the hospital but maybe now she has forgiven herself because you have to forgive yourself if you’re ever going to something something one day at a time.
If this movie was a song, it would be reggaeton remix of REM’s “Everybody Hurts.”
Seriously, look at these guys hurting:
Now, admittedly, everyone in this movie is completely awful. Anne Hathaway’s character is a self-absorbed, self-destructive pastiche of cliches about troubled upper-middle-class goth-faced drug addicts. Rachel, who is getting married, is haranguing, combative, and judgemental. Their father is painfully co-dependent. And their mother punched Anne Hathaway in the fucking face.
Then there is the elaborate and imposing MULTI-CULTURALISM of the wedding. Everything is Indian food this and reggae wedding band that, and aggressive cultural sensitivity. I mean, I know that it’s 2009 and Barack Obama, and I’m not even saying that there are not weddings like this. I’m just saying weddings like this are annoying and self-satisfied. Unless the bride and groom are getting matching “Hakuna Matata” tattoos on their foreheads, they need to relax. We’re not all trying to graduate with Masters in Ethnomusicology degrees.
So the movie was kind of unpleasant to watch. Because the people were unpleasant. Having an unpleasant wedding with their unpleasant friends. Before going back to their unpleasant hospitals and their unpleasant shattered lives. And there were obviously lots of tricks to quickly establish the characters and their traumas. Anne Hathaway’s pain and suffering comes in the form of a black hoodie and too much eye makeup. A conveniently uncovered object belonging to the dead brother appears literally out of nowhere to set off a fresh round of misery.
But here’s the thing: people actually exist in cliches. And even if an emotional trigger is narrative manipulation, that doesn’t make the emotion less realistic. Because ultimately this movie seemed to have a lot of truth to it. I hated the people and their stupid wedding, but it all seemed believable and realistic. Sometimes people are awful. Sometimes weddings are annoying. IT’S LIFE, JUMP INTO LIFE. Personally I don’t care for Anne Hathaway, and I’m not sure she deserved an Oscar nomination for what was basically a slightly improved take on her role in Havoc. But Bill Irwin was really great as the father. And Mather Zickel from Reno 911! and Horrible People proved that he had dramatic chops. And Fab 5 Freddy.
The movie reminded me a lot of Margot at the Wedding. Both are unrelenting examinations of insufferable bourgeois families in New England whose preparations for a wedding at the old family home dredges up all of their neuroses filmed with a casual documentary aesthetic. But where Margot at the Wedding seemed condescending, oppressive, unilluminating, and overly pleased with its own intelligence (like so much cum smeared on the library books), Rachel Getting Married seem to be getting at someone’s idea of the truth. And even if it isn’t my idea of the truth, that is still fairly compelling.
And so, for the first time in The Hunt history, I declare that not only is this movie not the Worst Movie of All Time, but it’s not even a bad movie. I hereby clear it of all charges. CASE DISMISSED!