Rachel Getting Married Just Blew My Mind

The rest of this post will make no sense to you if you haven’t seen Rachel Getting Married, which you should.

A few scattershot observations:

  • First, David Edelstein is right: the movie is a masterpiece. Easily one of the best I’ve seen this year, and a convincing portrait of the weird and sometimes toxic mix of bitterness, neediness, bratty manipulation, and genuine warmth that you find in relationships between siblings, particularly sisters. Whoa, that was really heavy.

*Tunde Adebimpe’s character is too cool to be marrying Rachel. This was implausible almost from the start. I think you’re supposed to sympathize with Rachel, but I have to say — I found her deeply unsympathetic, and more than a little dim. Edelstein writes:

Rachel is at long last fed up with being upstaged, and when she reacts to her sister, we react to (and like) her.

During Kym’s nightmare toast, I cringed, for Kym and also for everyone at the table. But the moment passed. Kym was rescued by the gracious guests, who I assume chalked up Kym’s psycho narcissism to, rightly, the fact that she’d just returned home from rehab and they figured, rightly, that the right thing to do was to cut her some slack. Yet Rachel had to lash out, insisting that she have her moment. Of course she wants her moment, and she deserves it. I get that. At the same time, Kym is in a really bad state. And while it might have made sense to stop indulging her years ago, confronting her under these circumstances was simply cruel and ungenerous.

*The saddest character is, of course, the saintly suffering dad, who really makes you want to withdraw from humanity. His basic decency has been nothing but a source of heartache for him. Like a lot of people I romanticize the idea of having children — but when your children are willfully self-destructive, it’s easy to imagine wanting to die. The panic you must feel when your kid goes missing, even if its for the umpteenth time, has to be totally gut-wrenching. You could see it the punishing burden on Bill Irwin’s face.

*I also really loved the best man, who seems like exactly the kind of person you’d want as your best man. I think I have a real hunger for the drama of life, and this normally harmless impulse gets people in destructive spirals. When the best man talks about missing the drama and desperation of being an addict, it sounded perverse, of course, but it’s on a spectrum: a lot of us have wrecked happy life situations out of a weird mix of boredom and pure nihilism. How scary to imagine all of the relationships that matter to you dissolving in the process.

*I was very resistant to seeing Rachel Getting Married because I felt that I couldn’t take Anne Hathaway’s face seriously. I’m officially an idiot. She was insanely good.

*Um, a lot of the cultural trappings of the wedding struck me as ridiculous. I saw the movie with a friend and at one point we said:

So why does the wedding have an Indian theme exactly?

I think it’s because they’re assholes.

Which is unkind, but I think you know what we meant

Also, as I noted before, Rachel is just not cool enough for Sidney. Seriously. She’s a terrible dancer, for example, which suggests a broader lack of soul. Also, Rachel’s best friend is a wretched punk who lacks common decency. This suggests poor judgment. Sidney, in contrast, has this ease and a generous nature, as reflected in his kind gestures towards Kym. He could do better. Alas, Sidney and Rachel will forever be bound together by the mysterious third party.

*As for the Ethan thread, I have to say — is there any denying that this is Debra Winger’s fault? How could that fact not have occurred to Rachel in her most vicious moment?

Lastly, a plea: please be kind to each other. I don’t always succeed in this, but I’m doing my best. Remember context, and remember that a different set of circumstances could have left you in an unenviable, difficult state.