The character of Kym is a challenge both for the actor and the audience. She is clearly our protagonist and our “way in” to the film. We want to, and, indeed, have to identify with her for the story to work. Yet, she is so destructive, at times her actions so repellent, that it strains the audience/protagonist relationship — all of which makes that relationship very interesting. I was so compelled to watch — sometimes through my fingers — because Anne Hathaway has that indefinable quality of making an audience identify with the character she is playing.
At her sister’s wedding, Kym constantly behaves like the most important person in the room. It would be so easy to dislike Kym, but Anne makes you feel that her character is perhaps in another room — both mentally and socially, albeit not physically, and therefore her calamitous outburst and limelight stealing seem like an ill-conceived attempt to connect. And in an extended post-wedding party scene, Kym dances with the group. This moved me to tears as I realized that her flailing arms and “look at me” gusto were the result of a self-conscious and forced attempt to fit in. In the end we see her dancing with her eyes closed among a hundred or so people and she is completely alone. That is a lot of empathy and understanding to garner from one shot, but Anne gives a performance so open and raw that I could not help but connect with Kym, even if her family was not able to do so.