Tragic, authentic Rachel Getting Married and happy, praiseworthy Happy-Go-Lucky
Rachel Getting Married is hoovering up press due to star Anne Hathaway's personal life, but her performance proves far more memorable than her con-artist ex. Sarcastic, self-destructive chain-smoker Kym (Hathaway) is the black sheep of her chic Connecticut family; she leaves rehab nine months sober to attend her sister's nuptials. (Hubby-to-be is Sidney, portrayed by TV on the Radio's Tunde Adebimpe, who's one of many musicians sprinkled throughout Jonathan Demme's enormous ensemble.) Rosemary DeWitt makes an impression as the no-nonsense bride who's just about had it with her drama-queen sibling; Rachel and Kym's mother is played by Debra Winger, whose surface composure masks a scary bitterness that evokes Mary Tyler Moore in Ordinary People (1980). Indeed, Rachel's characters are nursing wounds inflicted by a family tragedy particularly Kym, who is frequently infuriating but always authentic.
Laying on the misery is one thing, but what about ebullience? Poppy (Sally Hawkins), cheery London-dwelling hero of Mike Leigh's Happy-Go-Lucky, grins even when her bike is stolen. The meandering slice-of-life story factors in driving lessons, dating, dancing, family and friend relations, and job challenges. And just like Kym's moodiness, Poppy's optimism gradually shifts from grating to genuine. But Hawkins' sunny-side-up turn comes without benefit of a heavy plot an acting triumph that jerks fewer tears but feels no less praiseworthy. (Cheryl Eddy)
HAPPY-GO-LUCKY and RACHEL GETTING MARRIED open Fri/10 in Bay Area theaters.