Margot at the Wedding

Dir/Wri: Noah Baumbach. 2007. Starring: Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jack Black, Zane Pais. English. Comedy.
Margot at the Wedding

Dark and funny, this bitter little comedy comes with sharp pointy teeth and a soft underbelly. Margot at the Wedding is an intellectual smörgÃ¥sbord without overindulging in “smart” references, plot curve balls, or even winning attempts of redemption.

Margot, a married and successful writer living in Manhattan, travels by bus with her son, Claude, to her family's Long Island home for her estranged sister's wedding. We quickly learn that Margot (Nicole Kidman) is tightly wound, very smart, and incapable of not saying exactly what she's thinking even if - especially if -  it's cruel. As they arrive at the house on a short cliff by the sea we meet her mellow new age sister, Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and her fiance (Jack Black) who is sightly less than impressive. Margot can barely contain her disdain and you feel a change of air pressure within her sister's family unit which also includes her own teenage child, Ingrid, from a previous relationship. Soon, we realize that Margot's oozing destruction comes form her own life crisis and that she's really come to meet her lover, escape her own life and attempt a change in course.

The brilliance is that none of these intellectual , creative and completely co-dependant characters are in any way ready for the changes they did or didn't ask for. Pauline's impeding marriage is crumbling under the judgment of her sister, Claude is being dragged into his puberty and cannot imagine letting go of his mother, while Margot fails to support her sister, encourage her son, keep her lover or even impress her husband with her behavior. In a master stroke of definition Margot climbs the family tree to impress and once there becomes stuck, unable to ask for help.

If you are wary of too much dark without the joy, set your self at ease. Kidman and Leigh have the best on screen chemistry I've seen in a long time. Their barbs, wicked little triumphs and even tender endearments capture a fascinating relationship between two silly, smart and infinitely interesting women. Black is sensational as Pauline's underachieving lover whose many faults shine like special talents as his anxieties only make Pauline love him more. And the two teenagers (Zane Pais and Flora Cross) look at us from the brink of impending adult themes through their still very childish eyes.

I have to mention the neighbors, the Voglers, who are shrouded in mystery and whose seeming brutality puts Margot and her family in sharp relief. It is simply genius that we do not see a fuller picture of the Voglers who could very well be a normal if somewhat less literary family, but we are restricted by the limited and hypersensitive perspective of the Margots.

Cinematographer, Harris Savides, used old lenses and natural lighting to attain the overall image of looking back, as if we were reading a memoir or peering into a memory from a fading polaroid. Noah Baumbach has provided not only an incredible script but a tighter, more complete vision than his wonderful debut, The Squid and the Whale. This is an onion of a movie with layers upon effortless layers of personal and family history that will pop into your head days later making you wonder where those hinted and half told stories led.

Posted by:
Jessica Kaman
Mar 5, 2008 4:21pm
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