Rachel Getting Married (230 points/23 votes)
“In Rachel Getting Married, director Jonathan Demme's compassion shines through in a way that even good directors' films rarely do. Everything here contributes to a miserable-wonderful-electric state of being. Demme's misguided Charade remake, The Truth About Charlie, used the French New Wave as an experiment and a fashion statement, but in Rachel Getting Married the visual devices have a point – an urgency. The camera is desperate, searching, we feel life eluding the characters, the good times half-forgotten and giving way to the bad before they've been properly savored. The picture explodes in bursts of energy and music; it doubles in the way Kael wrote of Something Wild doubling. This new Demme picture merges the ideal qualities of a young and old filmmaker – a younger filmmaker's curiosity and need to get it all out with an older filmmaker's consideration and humanity. Rachel Getting Married is the film you find yourself fantasizing about as you watch your fiftieth coming of age romantic roundelay – an honorable formula picture – a picture that uses formula not out of cynicism or laziness, but as a springboard for something less tangible – an emotional blow-out, an instinctive trance-out, a bliss that closer resembles a beloved pop album.
“Demme employs something currently vogue again: the hand-held, slightly over-exposed, constantly in motion camera, and takes it further than most filmmakers seem willing. Many current filmmakers use a self-conscious diet vérité style as license to deny us poetry. Demme still gives us poetry, in the pauses and the interludes, in the in-jokes and the speeches, in the bursts of patter that tell us little in the words, but a lot in the delivery, and in the music that never ceases. Demme trusts you to find his poetry – a trick of a lamp, a woman standing over a pool, a gaze from a swing, that others would base their entire films around. Rachel Getting Married has many painful-squishy moments (admittedly too many – a few are too trumped for tears), but we don't come away from it feeling mauled as we do with many other critically acclaimed pictures released this time of year. Demme isn't interested in bleak chic – his obsession with the everyday clickety-clicks of life won't allow for it.
“The first two-thirds of Rachel Getting Married comprise one of the best films of its kind in years and the best Jonathan Demme picture since The Silence of the Lambs. The last third, in which all proper pretense of script is discarded, is the best Demme picture since Something Wild (still his masterpiece). Demme, as Stop Making Sense and Neil Young: Heart of Gold demonstrated, understands how music affects us, how it medicates us, and how it materializes our heartbreak in a way that no other art quite does. It has something to do with the portability of music, it follows us, comments on us, allows us to comment on ourselves, and allows us to move to it and communicate and cleanse ourselves. The third act of Rachel Getting Married is an unusually long chronicling of the wedding, of characters we've met casting themselves head first into the celebration – cajoling and drinking and reaching for catharsis. This last act has the warmth and grace of Heart of Gold as well as the wild-wooly tone of Something Wild – we're watching a physical, cinematic recap of the well-staged but more conventional stuff of the first hour – we're seeing the characters at their truest and their most rehearsed in equal measure, we're seeing how people respond to weddings, how they flirt with giving in to the illusion of renewed possibility – that all the clichés of love and life are true." ~ Chuck Bowen