Anne Hathaway plays Kym, troubled younger sister to Rachel, who's (as the title suggests) getting married. Kym gets a leave of absence from rehab in order to attend Rachel's nuptials. Once she's back home, old sores open up, sisterly resentment boils over, and the accusations and tears fly, all while ineffectual dad (Bill Irwin) tries to play referee and emotionally distant mom (Debra Winger) remains auspiciously absent.
If this sounds like a slog to sit through, don't be scared off. Unlike the recent and absolutely atrocious "Margot at the Wedding," which this film reminded me of, "Rachel Getting Married" is full of flawed but deeply sympathetic characters who I for one cared tremendously about. Anne Hathaway gives the kind of performance that will convince people she's more than just a pretty face, while she's met every step of the way by the less well known Rosemarie Dewitt, who plays Rachel. In a movie like this, it's crucial that the audience understands the back story that led the characters to their current dynamic, and it's a minor miracle that "Rachel Getting Married" does that without the use of flashbacks, voice over or even extensive scenes of plot exposition. Much of the story is told through nuance, in slight expressions or gestures, and the cast is uniformly fierce, every single member creating complex, flesh-and-blood people that aren't easy to instantly categorize. The film is an acting tour de force in every sense of the word.
Hathaway and Dewitt get the most opportunities to shine, but Irwin and Winger do wonders in their smaller roles as the parents. Winger, in particular, is devastating.
My only complaint is a big one -- an edict must be passed in Hollywood banning directors from filming entire movies with hand-held cameras. The trend is cliché and over. No, it does not add "realism" to a film. It merely distracts from all of the other elements that are good enough to stand on their own without the gimmickry. The cinematography was much less obtrusive in this film than in some others I can name, but it still served as a liability, not an asset.