A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this intense family drama addresses certain subjects -- drug addiction, death, family dysfunction -- that may be overwhelming for younger teens who are drawn to it by Anne Hathaway's star power. But they're dealt with so sensitively and compassionately that older teens may find the film quite impactful. Expect plenty of swearing and social drinking (as well as discussions about alcoholism and drug use). Characters also explore dark emotional terrain, and adult family members are hurtful -- verbally and physically -- to each other.
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What's the story?
As the title proclaims, Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) is getting married. In the works is a joyful, multicultural wedding -- she's a WASP, her fiance is African American, the theme is Indian -- that promises to embrace everyone into the fold, even Rachel's wayward sister, Kym (Anne Hathaway). On furlough from yet another stint in rehab, Kym's determined to keep it together. But it's not easy, especially when you're confronted by a well-meaning father (Bill Irwin) who hovers and shields the enormous pain he obviously feels, a distant mother (Debra Winger) who's determined to move on even if it means leaving you behind, and a sister who can't quite mask her rage even on the happiest of days. And then there's the past: The consequences of a family tragedy that happened while Kym was high are still omnipresent.
Is it any good?
RACHEL GETTING MARRIED is stunningly moving, though there will be viewers who will be frustrated by its pace. It takes its time to blossom, dwelling on moments that many other, lesser films would have skipped (the dishwasher contest, the musical interludes). But in making that artistic decision, director Jonathan Demme manages to get us so invested in his characters that it feels like whatever's happening onscreen is happening to us, and we're unquestionably moved. Long after the credits roll, we'll still be thinking about it.
Kudos belongs to so many: To Hathaway, for reminding us once more -- after Brokeback Mountain -- of her deep well of talent (her big eyes and nearly too-gaunt face serve her well in such a haunting -- and haunted -- role). To the rest of the ensemble for turning in such fine-tuned performances, neither overplaying nor underacting. To the masterful Demme, who allowed the script to breathe. And to screenwriter Jenny Lumet (daughter of acclaimed director Sidney Lumet). One of the things that makes a screenwriter great is the ability to tell the truth, which Lumet does beautifully. If only every wedding ceremony was as unorthodox, as stirring as this one.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's messages. What does it say about the power of forgiveness, especially of forgiving yourself? How is the movie similar to, and different from, others that deal with addiction? Is it a realistic portrayal? Does that make it easier or harder to watch? Are there typical clichés and pitfalls that this movie manages to avoid? Which ones, and how? Families can also discuss why Kym acts the way she does when she comes home. Why does she seem so uncomfortable? How does her family react to her? Why?