There's an awful lot I like -- even love -- about this movie. It's hands-down the most deeply felt grown-up film I've seen this year. Demme gets us close in, making us feel the pleasures of family (the camaraderie of the rehearsal dinner, even to the sensual joy of passing food around), much of the pain (any of several arguments), and all those areas in-between. He gives us a complicated family dynamic and lets us pick it up on the run -- many key facts are made clear late; some (like the relationship with Winger's mother charcater) are indicated only obliquely. And almost every moment of the film feels fantastically alive: the happy patches made me giddy; painful ones (like Hathaway's toast) made me avert my eyes the way I would were I encountering such a scene in life.
My problem, and it's a not insignificant one: while the plotting as a whole is decent, there are a few major elements that come right from the Playhouse 90 school of dramaturgy. The less damaging (because it occupies less screen time) was the all-too-convenient hairdresser-conveying-important-overheard-information scene. There HAD to have been a better way to get that data onscreen. But far worse was the Ethan backstory. On its own it was uninspired material -- and exploitive, as the death of a small child naturally is -- but having Hathaway confess it where she did could have limited the damage. When it turned up again, though, at the end of the dishwasher scene -- a scene that had been going wonderfully well -- the film simply crashed for me, both for the ludicrous coincidence of the plate and the double-underlining of clearly sentimental material. (And even after that, the script gilded the lily one more time by showing us those angelic pictures at the end) It's a tribute to how good much of the film is that I was able to trudge past these problems and still feel as positive as I did.
I'm with BJ, that Hathaway is a very likely nominee -- Hollywood types are surely thrilled that "our Annie" has pulled herself out of fluff and flexed dramatic muscles, a la Elisabeth Shue in Leaving Las Vegas -- but she stays in the ensemble a good bit of the time, and isn't the most formidable candidate to win. I also very much liked DeWitt and Irwin, and wouldn't be surprised if either made the supporting rosters. I think the casting of Winger is important for the film -- the mother seems something of an emotional key to the family, yet the character has so little screen-time that what she's denied her daughters must be conveyed pretty much between the lines. This is something at which Winger has always excelled, and she makes that last scene work in a way that a lesser actress might not have (many would have overdone the iciness, a la Mary Tyler Moore in Ordinary People). That said...as much as I've loved Winger these many years, it wouldn't be fair to nominate her for support and leave DeWitt out, when DeWitt's role has so any more colors.
My only other quibble with the film is, Demme lets the story get a little lost in music after the marriage ceremony -- I found myself drifting, until the Hathaway/DeWitt/Winger scene brought it back online. However, none of that negated the many scenes I recall with pleasure: the whole wedding rehearsal, with its seemingly off-the-cuff but probably written speeches, Hathaway's clear alienation from the crowd, the tension that Hathaway will say something truly embarrassing and the relief she doesn't; the wonderfully muddled argument back at the house culminating in the pregnancy announcement (Hathaway's "It's not fair" comes off hilariously narcissistic, but she's quite correct -- DeWitt did cheat to become the focus again); DeWitt's "flowers" conversation with Winger; DeWitt and Hathaway in the tub after the wreck; and the up note of the ending, which lets Kym go her way and focuses at last on Rachel, the one who's not doing everything to wreck her own life. All these scenes make the film a pleasure despite its flaws.