Margot at the Wedding
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr Noah Baumbach
with Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jack Black, Zane Pais, Flora Cross, Ciarán Hinds, John Turturro, Halley Feiffer, Michael Cullen, Enid Graham, Sophie Nyweide, Barbara Turner
release US 16.Nov.07,
UK 29.Feb.08
07/US Paramount 1h32
Margot at the Wedding
The giggles: Kidman and Leigh

black hinds turturro


Margot at the Wedding Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) continues to examine the more stinging side of human relationships, this time taking an almost Dogme approach to filmmaking, with raw production values and edgy performances.

Margot (Kidman) and her early teen son Claude (Pais) leave Manhattan to attend the wedding of her sister Pauline (Leigh) to Malcolm (Black), a guy who seems to have very little going for him besides an offbeat sense of humour and a high sex drive. But being together at home stirs old sibling rivalries, plus somewhat uneasy relationships with a neighbour (Hinds). When Margot's husband (Turturro) shows up, it's clear that she wishes he hadn't. And the real problem here is that no one can keep a secret.

There's an almost fly-on-the-wall documentary feel to the way this film is put together, as Baumbach's murkily lit cameras eavesdrop on intimate conversations and tiny betrayals, giving us an omniscient view of the interaction even though we have very little of the back-story. This essentially throws us right into each scene as a voyeur, gobbling up telltale details and waiting for more information. Then as the characters start behaving rather badly, it starts to turn into a truly juicy look at the everyday reality of dysfunction.

This sometimes abrasive approach allows the cast to deliver startlingly off-handed performances. Kidman and Leigh are terrific together, with a grating affection that rubs each other the wrong way. Margot's bossiness has clearly been a problem for Pauline all her life, while Pauline's free-spirited approach drives Margo nuts. And Black manages to be unusually unselfconscious; he's still a clown, but much more realistically so, and with an intriguing edge of self-doubt.

It's in the little outbursts of anger and the manic overreactions that this film really engages us. For all of these characters, the thing that really gets on their nerves is the way their beloved family members constantly reveal their own weaknesses. In many ways, the script is a bit over-packed with secrets and revelations, quirks and wrinkles, but it's so vividly played out that we can't take our eyes off the screen. Especially as we see ourselves so clearly reflected there.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality 29.Oct.07

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© 2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall