Review: Margot at the Wedding (2007)

Margot at the Wedding

Margot at the Wedding

Rating



Director

Noah Baumbach

Screenplay

Noah Baumbach

Length

91 min.

Starring

Zane Pais, Nicole Kidman, Jack Black, Flora Cross, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Seth Barrish, Matthew Arkin, Ciaran Hinds, Halley Feiffer, John Turturro

MPAA Rating

R (for sexual content and language)

Buy/Rent Movie

Soundtrack

Poster

Review

Recrimination, discovery and mental abuse are at the center of the latest effort of The Squid and the Whale director/screenwriter Noah Baumbach.

Given only first names (to protect the innocent?), the characters of Margot at the Wedding are painfully unfunny, ludicrously overdeveloped and filled with such unrealistic motivation, that it’s difficult to even understand which character is lead. Presuming the child is, since that was the arrangement of his first film, Baumbach tells the story of a writer mother, Margot (Nicole Kidman), who is invited to attend the wedding of her sister Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh).

Upon arriving, she instantly finds issues to complain about, not the least of which is the oafish, idiot that she’s about to marry. Malcolm (Jack Black) is a self-described “artist” who doesn’t seem to have a mature bone in his body and is perpetually saying the most inappropriate and regularly offensive things.

Pauline can’t see how wrong he is for her because she’s too busy contradicting Margot’s commentary on her fiancé. Blinded by her own desire to trump her sister, she engages in self-destructive behavior that, while Margot can be considered a catalyst, is almost entirely her fault.

It’s impossible to find much sympathy with these characters as we watch each one slowly implode with their own vanity and stupidity. The children get the most attention because they are inadvertently thrust into adult conflicts that have little bearing on them, but ultimately affect their social wellbeing. However, it’s difficult to muster up anything more than morbid curiosity and severe disappointment.

Although the characters are given entirely different names, Claude, Margot’s eldest, seems to be a slightly older version of the elder brother in The Squid and the Whale. The similarities stem mostly from Margot and her ex being writers. In Squid, his parents were novelists who proceeded to separate from one another.

It’s a theme for Baumbach’s films, but whereas Squid was a beautifully acted film that posed significant questions about the impact of divorce on children, Margot is filled with lackluster performances, marred most by Black’s absolutely dreadful depiction. I can’t stand him in most vehicles and King Kong was some measure of improvement, but here his buffoonery, while fitting for the character, is completely distracting and when he actually shows emotion, you roll your eyes at how ludicrous it sounds.

Margot also shares many other similarities with The Squid and the Whale, the most annoying of which is his desire to include masturbation in the films. We know it’s a part of our lives and there isn’t anyone who doesn’t or hasn’t at some point done it, but must we be subjected to it in every film from Whale forward?

There are few reasons to enjoy Margot at the Wedding; it’s mostly just a chore to get through. None of the events seem directly related and when the story veers off to include random, threatening neighbors who look like they belong in a West Virginian banjo competition, it collapses under its own superficial, “Look at me! I wanna be an indie!” weight.

Review Written

January 31, 2008

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