MARGOT AT THE WEDDING
Margot Zeller (Nicole Kidman) is a successful short story writer who tramples on the emotions of everyone around her. With her son Claude (Zane Pais) in tow, she decides to visit her estranged free-spirited sister Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh), for her imminent wedding to an unemployed artist Malcolm (Jack Black). As soon as she arrives, Margot makes no bones about her disapproval of Malcolm, and tensions begin to escalate as family members, neighbours, Margot's husband (John Turturro) and occasional lover (Ciarán Hinds) all find themselves at odds with each other.
Review by Louise Keller:
She points out everyone's faults and can't keep her mouth shut. She snoops, interferes and brings out the worst in everyone. This is Margot, a nightmare of a mother, sister, wife and lover. Even the dog runs away. Like Noah Baumbach's last film, The Squid and The Whale, Margot at the Wedding is a family story whose drama naturally oozes from its characters. It's a fine script that is beautifully realised by its top cast, although emotionally it falls short.
This is a film about relationships which are as shaky as the train on which we first meet Margot (Nicole Kidman) and her son Claude (Zane Pais). There's a telling moment when Claude leaves his seat, heads for a solitary spot between the carriages and screams. We quickly understand his frustration. Kidman is wonderfully brittle and icy as Margot, who alienates everyone around her without even trying. Baumbach's wife Jennifer Jason Leigh is terrific as Margot's sister Pauline; there's painful history in their relationship. Surprisingly Jack Black provides the greatest emotional payoff; he is perfect as Pauline's intended Malcolm, the lovable unemployed bum with no ambition ('expectations always turn to disappointment, so I'd rather not try'). Margot spits out words like ammunition. He's not ugly, she tells her sister, just completely unattractive. He's like guys we rejected when we were 16.
There is a cumulative effect to the negativity that Margot projects, and she does get some
comeuppance from her lover (Ciarán Hinds) at a local bookstore. But she dishes out plenty, causing conflict, angst and discomfort to all, including her about-to-be ex-husband (John Turturro) who arrives unexpectedly. Drama is interspersed with wry humour from the situations that evolve. Despite the many shades of emotions Kidman projects, I never felt anything for Margot. I didn't care when she was distressed or anxiously opening a bottle of white wine. Nor did I care what happened to her. I would have felt more satisfied had Margot's journey been more definitive instead of me leaving the film feeling ambivalent.
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MARGOT AT THE WEDDING (M)
CAST: Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jack Black, Flora Cross, Seth Barrish, Matthew Arkin, Michael Cullen, Enid Graham, Sophie Nyweide, Justin Roth, Ciarán Hinds
PRODUCER: Scott Rudin
DIRECTOR: Noah Baumbach
SCRIPT: Noah Baumbach
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Harris Savides
EDITOR: Carol Littleton
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Anne Ross
RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 21, 2008