The movie revolves around Kym Buchman (Anne Hathaway), a young woman who has been in a rehabilitation center for several months due to her addiction problem. She is glad to be allowed to visit her family house for the upcoming wedding of her older sister Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt), but, like many newly recovering addicts, she cannot help but feel edgy and nervous, and her anxiety is not quelled at all even after her father Paul (Bill Irwin) arrives and then takes her to their home.
When Kym arrives at her family house, everyone is busy with preparing for her sister’s wedding, and we soon come to sense the tension between Kym and her family members. Her father genuinely cares about her recovery process, but Kym gets annoyed with her father’s constant attention toward her, and Rachel is not so pleased about Kym frequently drawing attention from her father and others. While she generously allows her younger sister to be the Maid of Honor instead of her best friend, she understandably becomes quite displeased when Kym attempts to congratulate Rachel at first, but then makes a rambling speech on her recovery process during the rehearsal dinner.
Meanwhile, we gradually get to know an emotional wound which still hurts Kym and the family. Around the time when Kym was at the bottom of her addiction, a devastating incident happened. It is evident from a few brief personal moments that she has been struggling a lot with her guilt over the irreversible consequence of her reckless action, which probably led to her father’s divorce with his first wife Abby (Debra Winger). When her father happens to come across a certain item from the past at one point, his casually cheerful attitude is suddenly switched off, and we can clearly feel his heart broken again over what was lost forever.
This is surely a familiar setup for family melodrama, but Jenny Lumet’s screenplay freely sways along with its main characters as they go through ups and downs before the wedding ceremony. During the scene which is actually based on an episode between Lumet’s legendary father Sidney Lumet and Bob Fosse, the mood is vivacious as everyone cheers for an impromptu competition between two main characters, and you may find yourself cheering along with them.
Demme and his cinematographer Declan Quinn took an effective visual approach fitting well to the free-flowing storytelling of Lumet’s screenplay. Because the movie was mainly shot via handheld cameras, its first 20 minutes may be a little too dizzy and rough at first, but, thanks to the raw verisimilitude generated from the spontaneous camera movements on the set, we often feel like we are there. The overall result indeed looks like your average wedding video at times, but it is skillfully presented with several intense emotional scenes including the one where Kym and her mother come to confront the old pain and resentment still churning between them.