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Margot at the Wedding

Sometimes comical, oftentimes emotionally raw, this slice-of-life drama may just remind you of your own family.


Sibling rivalry is alive and well in this well-told tale of two estranged sisters who reunite for one's wedding, with explosive emotional results. Margot (Nicole Kidman) and her teenage son, Claude (Zane Pais), leave the big city and travel to her family's home, where sister Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is getting married. The sisters haven't spoken in years, and we soon see why: Margot, a well-known writer who is incredibly self-involved, is extremely judgmental and something of a bitch. She immediately begins to verbally tear at Pauline (a college professor), making her doubt her decision to marry. The fiancée, Malcolm (Jack Black), is admittedly something of a slacker, but he does clearly love Pauline, despite his massive insecurities which surface as Margot refuses to hide her disdain for him. Ironically, as Margot sabotages Pauline's relationship, her own life--her marriage, her not-so-secret affair, and with her son--are crumbling around her.


Nicole Kidman's acting style is often so mannered, it seem almost emotionless, which serves her well in her role as Margot. She's a character that is desperately trying to hold everything inside, but her life is such a mess that the façade begins to crumble as she watches her sister Pauline move towards a happy ending. This time out, Kidman deftly shows us the cracks in the façade, and gives a compelling performance as a woman who is unraveling before our eyes. Jennifer Jason Leigh (who happens to be married to Noah Baumbach, the film's writer-director) is well cast as the younger sister who hates and loves Margot in the same breath, and still allows her to get deep under her skin. Jack Black also gives a nuanced turn as the shlubby fiancée, who dreams of being a success but never does much about making it actually happen. And newcomer Zane Pais is completely believable as Margot's 13-year-old son, who loves his slightly smothering mother but is beginning to grow away from her.


Writer-director Noah Baumbach, whose serio-comedy The Squid and the Whale was nominated for Best Original Screenplay in 2005, marks Margot at the Wedding as his follow-up effort, proving he is still a sharply observant author who explores dysfunctional family relationships with insight and verve. The look of Margot is sort of a messy one, shot using a slightly grainy film stock that mirrors the chaos happening internally for all the assorted characters who find themselves thrown together at the wedding. The cinematic style may put some viewers off, but it certainly works for the story. The best thing about Baumbach's work, however, is his dialogue. The conversations the family members engage in are multilayered, with the things they don't say as obvious as the things they do. He's one of the few writers working in film today who can draw a cringe of compassion out of even the most jaded viewer. With Margot at the Wedding, Baumbach forces us to think about the words we say to our own loved ones--and how harmful they can be if uttered without thinking them through.

Bottom Line rated this film 3 stars.