Movie Reviews
2:26 pm
Mon December 10, 2007

Margot at the Wedding

A feast of acting.

"Family quarrels are bitter things. They don't go according to any rules." F. Scott Fitzgerald


Margot at the Wedding is the heavier side of its director Noah Baumbach's Squid and the Whale and just a bit weightier than Little Miss Sunshine. Nowhere is it near the lightness of The Royal Tenenbaums, but the dysfunctional family motif hovers always close to the risible. Margot is a feast of acting seasoned with sides of family lunacy close enough to the seeming sanity of most our families.

Margot (Nichole Kidman) and her son, Claude (Zane Pais), visit her estranged sister, Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh), for Pauline's' impending marriage to immature, loveable slacker Malcolm (Jack Black). Margot, thinking Malcolm isn't worthy of Pauline, is not secret about her dislike ("He's not ugly. He's completely unattractive"). But then short-story writer Margot has never been reticent about family matters, as writing about them caused the rift with her sister many years ago.

If this story echoes Eric Rohmer's Pauline at the Beach, it is probably not a coincidence, both in title and accent on dialogue, but in no way does even Rohmer approach Baumbach's trenchant criticism of contemporary family relationships, including the tricky one between eccentric son and neurotic mom.

If for no other reason, see this family dysfunction drama to enjoy feeling superior to the downright mine field each of the characters faces daily in a family that turns back on itself in forgiveness as frequently as Britney Spears loses her kids and gains them back again. Mix in a little Freudian psychoanalysis ("What was it about Dad that had us fucking so many guys?") and East-coast sunless scenes, and you'll wish for your Thanksgiving back so you could newly appreciate its relatively low-level social WMD's and surprising humor.

Like the grainy film stock and low-key lighting, Nicole Kidman's Margot brings gloom despite her daunting beauty and witty tongue. Oh, well, that's my kind of lady, and that's my tumultuous family, ready for a Christmas turkey that should be more delectable this time around thanks to Noah Baumbach.