Comments on watching and making films.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Margot At The Wedding

Margot At The Wedding is Noah Baumbach's latest film. Some of you may know Noah, primarily, from The Squid and the Whale, but he has several well made films in his catalog, including Kicking and Screaming, his debut, which is now available on Criterion DVD.

Margot (Nicole Kidman) is a New York writer who, along with son Claude, is on her way out to the country for her sisters wedding. She doesn't approve of the man she's marrying, and, honestly, doesn't care for her sister very much either, but is going to get away from her husband, whom she is no longer in love with. When she gets to the large, Cape Cod style house, we meet her sister, Pauline (played by Baumbach's wife, Jennifer Jason Leigh), Pauline's daughter, and her soon to be husband Malcolm (played by Jack Black), a "super smart" guy who, basically has amounted to nothing.

As the film clips along, the tension between Margot and everyone else rises substantially. Margot is one of those people who is eternally unhappy, and, not only completely unable to experience happiness herself, but she also seems to find it a necessity to make sure those around her are unhappy as well. Baumbach has written Margot with an acute awareness of how the character's personality is like a surgical instrument in the hands of a psychotic maniac - always slicing away at everyone else, while she's completely unable to focus on solving any of her own problems.

The film also shares a little bit of its focus with her son Claude, who, unfortunately, ends up being a bit of a cliche mash up of other indie film characters. We see Claude face a lot of situations, but he never really does anything beyond what you would expect him to do.

Jennifer Jason Leigh, as Pauline, delivers a fantastic performance as the sister who has never particularly accomplished anything, and simply drifts through life, attaching herself to whatever comes along, which, in this case is Jack Black's character, Malcolm. Black turns out a decent performance, considering he doesn't rely on any of his trademark schtick.

The film is quite amazing, really, in the way it portrays such a messy side of family togetherness, neurosis, and selfishness. My only problem with it is that Baumbach (or perhaps a studio exec?) doesn't always allow us to let it all sink in. Cuts are made VERY quickly in this film, to the point that, sometimes, a cut to the next scene happens directly after a punchline or a reveal. The film doesn't give you any time to take in what has just happened, and, in doing so, feels like it is moving at the pace of a bullet train. You feel that, by the time your done, you've been on a bit of a roller coaster ride, with your eyes closed, so you have no idea what just happened. It is taut, but maybe a little too taut...

All in all, I would definitely recommend Margot for Baumbach fans, but, not for Kidman fans or casual film goers. For instance, my Mom asked me if she would like it, and I told her no. The main reason I told her no was the fact that Baumbach's humor is extremely dry and razor sharp, but there's also other little Baumbach twists of the arm, like Margot's masturbation scene, that would probably make my mom feel incredibly uncomfortable. So, the verdict is, go watch The Squid and the Whale. If you don't like that, there's NO WAY you'll like Margot At The Wedding.

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