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Jonathan Demme's film Rachel Getting Married sums up the late director's greatest talents

The 2008 film is a rich, music-filled family drama that garnered Anne Hathaway her first Oscar nomination.

Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married
Anne Hathaway in Jonathan Demme’s film Rachel Getting Married
Alissa Wilkinson covers film and culture for Vox. Alissa is a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics.

Every weekend, we pick a movie you can stream that dovetails with current events. Old, new, blockbuster, arthouse: They’re all fair game. What you can count on is a weekend watch that sheds new light on the week that was. The movie of the week for April 29 through May 5 is Rachel Getting Married, which is available to digitally rent on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, YouTube, and Vudu.

On Wednesday, the beloved film director Jonathan Demme died at the age of 73. Demme’s work was wide-ranging — from The Silence of the Lambs, for which he won an Oscar, to last year’s Justin Timberlake concert film — and the news of his passing was met with mourning and reminiscing from artists and critics of all stripes, from Moonlight director Barry Jenkins to Bruce Springsteen.

One of Demme’s late-career gems is the 2008 drama Rachel Getting Married, written by Jenny Lumet, which stars Anne Hathaway in an atypical role for the buoyant actress, for which she nabbed her first Oscar nomination. She plays Kym, a volatile addict who’s been in and out of rehab for the past decade and estranged from her family. But she returns home for the wedding of her sister Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt).

Rachel is marrying a musician — played by TV On the Radio frontman Tunde Adebimpe — and because of this, the film manages to encompass nearly everything that made Demme great. There’s the complicated, well-written female leads, the unpredictable humor, the emotional connections between characters, and a long sequence that feels like an intimate concert film (a form Demme was a master of).

Demme directing the cast of Rachel Getting Married
Demme directing the cast of Rachel Getting Married.

Watching Rachel Getting Married feels a lot like getting invited to a big, messy, gorgeous wedding yourself. As guests, we watch the drama, the humor, and the celebration unfold. We’re drawn into the story and made to feel like part of the action. It’s a strangely hospitable film.

That hospitality, it turns out, was just part of Demme’s personality. On Instagram, Hathaway wrote, “Dearest JD, In this moment when words fail me, I am so grateful to the light which lets me see you everywhere, in everything. Thank you for cracking open the heart which is now breaking (it's always worth it).” Jodie Foster, whom he directed in Silence of the Lambs, said he was an “unstoppable cheerleader for anyone creative.” Talking Heads frontman David Byrne wrote that Demme’s “view of the world was open, warm, animated and energetic.” Barry Jenkins tweeted that Demme was “A MASSIVE soul. He lived in love. And rests in peace.”

That’s a good description of Demme, and of his films, too. Rachel Getting Married embodies that soulful love of the world — and it’s exactly the right movie to watch to honor his memory.

Watch the trailer for Rachel Getting Married:

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