Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Rachel Getting Married


… but it’s not really about Rachel at all, is it? It’s about Kym, her sister. As a matter of face, everything is about Kym. No matter where she goes, no matter what else is going on, Kym will be sure to make it be about Kym. She will have some crisis, or get into an argument, or say something incredibly inappropriate, and then everyone will have to pay attention to little Kymmie. Kym is a recovering addict, you see, on a pass from the detox facility to attend her sister’s wedding. Where she discovers she is not to be the maid of honor, and then manages to insult Rachel’s best friend and browbeat Rachel until she is the maid of honor. Score one for Kymmie! Then there is the dinner with all Rachel’s friends and family gathered around, happy, toasting the bride-to-be and the groom with stories and heartfelt love … and Kym stands and talks about—what else!—herself, in great and wincing detail, pretty well putting a damper on the proceedings. Well, she could hardly let all those people have fun, when she wasn’t, could she?

Am I being too hard on Kym? Possibly. As we all knew or at least suspected, there is a terrible reason for the guilt she feels, and which she seems to take as a license to make all her relatives pay for her unhappiness. It is a terrible story, indeed, (I won’t reveal it here) and she should feel guilty—I would, and I’d never get over it—and about the only nice thing I can say for her is that she does feel guilty … but even that guilt seems to be something she can use as a weapon against her family. The decent thing, if she had any self-knowledge at all, would have been to take a pass on the wedding. Call in sick. Send flowers. They would have missed her, but they would have gotten over it. She was far, far from ready (if she will ever be) to face a stressful situation like that. And I think she should have known it. Or maybe she did know it, and just didn’t care.

And the funny thing is, I think part of her problem is this “making amends” business that is part of all 12-step programs. Perhaps there are people who can do this with grace, and actually merit the forgiveness they seek for the unspeakable atrocities they committed while drunk or high. But I think that, once again, making amends is about me, much more than it’s about anything I’ve done to you. Addicts are very self-involved people, very narcissistic. And, more often than not, if you aren’t interested in letting them make amends to you, if you say to them: “Good for you. Glad you’re sober. But there is no way I can forgive the things you did and blamed on alcohol and drugs. So screw your amends. Take a hike and I pray that I never see you again …” … well, look out. They will find a way to force amends on you.

Gee, it sounds like I hated the movie, doesn’t it? Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s a great little movie, wonderfully written and with absolutely wonderful performances from all involved, most of all Anne Hathaway, playing very much against type and being more than up to it.

It’s the first screenwriting credit for Jenny Lumet, daughter of Sidney Lumet, and it’s directed by Jonathan Demme, one of those directors who can’t be categorized, you can’t say there’s any such thing as a Jonathan Demme film. I mean what do The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia, and Neil Young: Heart of Gold have in common? The extended family Jenny Lumet conjures here is pretty amazing, perhaps not too surprising for a woman who is the granddaughter of Lena Horne, her entire family seemingly in the arts. The fictional family here is so diverse that it’s funny, at first. These people know a lot of artists and musicians, and they all have something to contribute either visually or musically. (I’m happy to note just how much progress has been made since I was young. This is an interracial wedding … and absolutely nothing is made of race. There is never an awkward moment of white guilt or of black anger. Not long after I graduated, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner was a very, very big deal. I believe some theaters in the South wouldn’t show it.) Demme doesn’t poke fun as the decidedly non-traditional wedding unfolds, with a nod to just about every culture on the planet, and the groom singing a Neil Young song with a Harley-Davidson in it instead of vowing to love, honor, and cherish. And pretty soon I got into the spirit of it all, while I waited for Kym to throw a dead skunk into the tent.

Side note: Isn’t it depressing to see actors younger than you are … getting old? I was having a little trouble accepting Debra Winger as the divorced mother of these girls, until we got a few close-ups of the wrinkles on her face and the first hint of a turkey neck. She’s 53 now. No longer the ingénue, though she still looks great. Congrats for not getting the face-lift … not yet, anyway.