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Film / Rachel Getting Married

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Rachel Getting Married is a 2008 drama film about Kym, the Black Sheep of her family, who is released from rehab just in time for her sister Rachel's wedding. And naturally, things start to spill.

Directed by Jonathan Demme, the film stars Anne Hathaway as Kym (a role for which she received an Academy Award nomination) and Rosemarie DeWitt as the titular Rachel with Bill Irwin and Debra Winger as their parents Paul and Abby. Tunde Adebimpe, the lead singer of TV on the Radio, plays Rachel's groom Sidney.


This film provides examples of:

  • All There in the Script: Some easy-to-miss dialogue bits provide the context for the wedding, which Jenny Lumet's screenplay explains a little more. Sidney, a Record Producer, is marrying Rachel, the daughter of music industry mogul Paul Buchman.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: "L'chaim" is said a few times, which suggests the Buchman family is culturally Jewish, but not religiously so.
  • And Starring: Debra Winger gets an "and" credit. It was her first film in four years, so her appearance was notable enough to deserve this.
  • Bitter Wedding Speech: Kym, who has just gotten out of rehab, makes a speech at her sister's rehearsal dinner apologizing for her past actions because she is jealous of the attention her sister is getting.
  • Black Sheep: Kym.
  • Consummate Liar: A key moment in the story is when Rachel learns that Kym has been shamelessly lying about her family to people in rehab, making up stories about being sexually abused and helping Rachel cope with anorexia, in a ploy to gain sympathy and justify how much of a trainwreck she is.
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  • The Cameo: British indie rock singer-songwriter Robyn Hitchcock appears briefly at the wedding performing his song "America". His appearence came at the request of Jonathan Demme, who had directed Hitchcock in the quirky 1998 concert film Storefront Hitchcock.
  • Creator Cameo: Variation. Legendary cinematic schlockmeister Roger Corman plays one of the wedding guests. Demme is one of several high-profile directors to have apprenticed under Corman.note 
  • Damage-Proof Vehicle: Kym, angry after a fistfight with her mother, purposely drives her father's Mercedes off the road, over a road sign and into the woods, and then crashes into a rock. Although the airbag deploys, when we see the car in the morning light, the front end isn't even dented.
  • Dinner and a Show: Subverted for the most part. Much of the escalation happens when the family is at home, but it's hard to have any privacy when the wedding party is in the same home at all times.
  • Dramedy: The premise sounds like an outrageous comedy—Woman's storybook wedding gets threatened when her wild child sister shows up. There are some Black Comedy elements, but things get dark as well, especially once we learn about Kym's whole backstory.
  • Dysfunctional Family: The Buchmans. Lampshaded by Kym during her speech at the rehearsal dinner.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The movie is about the titular Rachel preparing to get married, but it also focuses on the Dysfunctional Family as well.
  • Foreshadowing: Pay attention to what Walter says in the very beginning of the movie "Did ya kill anybody recently? Run anybody over with your fucking car?" At first, it seems like the ramblings of a clearly unstable person, then you find out that Kym accidentally killed her younger brother by driving into a ravine while high.
  • It's All About Me: Kym is so self obsessed she throws a tantrum when she realizes her sister's wedding is not about her rehabilitation.
    • Not to say that Rachel doesn't have her moments, accusing their dad of "defending" Kym.
    • Kym and Rachel seem to actually be a variation of The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry in which Kym is out to prove that she's better and Rachel is, well, getting married. Rachel even pulls the news of her pregnancy out during a heated argument. Everyone cheers up and congratulates her, while Kym is left angry, miserable, and still unable to settle things with her family.
  • Jerkass: Kym can come off as such, but she's of a different flavor.
    • And then there's Mom...
  • Jitter Cam: Demme wanted the film to look like "the most beautiful home movie ever made", so he eschewed the usual practice of setting up shots before filming scenes, leaving the cinematographer and his crew free to react to the scene the way they thought best as it played out.
  • Leave the Camera Running: At times, it looks like the movie was cut together from footage the guests took with their camcorders.
  • Left the Background Music On: Non-humorous example. Music starts swelling during a very intense moment, then the father asks the wedding musicians in the room to stop practicing for a while.
  • Mood Whiplash: Realistically for a wedding weekend where one member of the family is fresh from her latest stint in rehab, scenes can go from tense dysfunctional-family drama to lighthearted and joyful, then back again, within minutes (The dishwasher scene is a prime example).
  • My Greatest Failure: Kym accidentally driving off a bridge and causing her little brother to drown because she was high. Rachel almost never lets her live it down.
  • Off the Wagon: Averted. Despite the fact that she's in a situation that would be fraught with triggers even under the best of circumstances, and the many times we see her going off by herself, Kym stays clean and sober through the weekend.
  • Oscar Bait: How else could you describe a film from a respected director about Dysfunctional Family turmoil, including a Dark Secret? It worked, too, as Anne Hathaway was nominated for an Oscar for her role in this film. Her second attempt was more successful, though.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Boy howdy, it sure does.
  • Reality Has No Soundtrack: The film doesn't have any non-diegetic music. There's quite a bit of music, but it's provided by the musicians at the wedding, including when they practice during breaks in the rehearsals.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Rachel says some things to Kym at a couple points about her behavior, but eventually moves on. Kym, on the other hand, gets the big scene of this nature when she confronts her mother over how she deserves some of the blame for Ethan's death, since she's the one who gave Kym the responsibility to look after Ethan, despite Kym's major drug problems.
  • Secondary Character Title: Rachel is indeed getting married, and the wedding drives the plot, but Kym is the protagonist.
  • Shout-Out: Sidney sings "Unknown Legend" (from Harvest Moon) as part of his vows. The minister then quips "By the power vested in me by the state of Connecticut and by Neil Young, I pronounce that they are husband and wife."
  • Stepford Smiler: Kym and Rachel's mother.
  • Title Drop: During one of the rehearsals.
  • Tropaholics Anonymous: While she's in town for the wedding, Kym attends the meetings of a local NA chapter.
  • Wham Shot: After Kym and Rachel's dad demands more dishes for a dishwasher loading contest with Sidney, Kym grabs a random stack of plates. The dad grabs the one on top, but it gives him pause. After everyone except Kym leaves, it pans over to the plate which reads "Ethan" The name of Kym's brother who she accidentally killed.


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