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Margot At The Wedding (2007)

DVD Cover (Paramount)
Genres:
Comedy Drama, Ensemble Film, Family Drama, Tragi-Comedy
Director:
Noah Baumbach Noah Baumbach
Starring:
Zane Pais Zane Pais
Susan Blackwell Susan Blackwell
Nicole Kidman Nicole Kidman
Jack Black Jack Black
Flora Cross Flora Cross

6.0 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by bluemeanie
Added: November 28, 2007
The trailer for this film had me at hello. Any trailer that uses the Phantom Planet cover of "Our House" has me at hello. Not to mention the film was written and directed by Noah Baumbach, the genius who brought us "The Squid and the Whale" from a couple of years ago. He might be one of my favorite directors working today, and he's only directed two films. But, he also helped write the screenplay for "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou". As you can tell from his three films with which he's been involved, he has a knack for writing about bizarre parent/child relationships, and "Margot At the Wedding" is no exception - it might be his weirdest to date. But, it's nice to find someone who writes to openly and honestly about issues that he himself obviously went through during his childhood. Noah Baumbach just has this talent for finding those little moments in very random conversations that make you cringe and raise your eyebrows at just what they really do mean and how they affect the people in his films. "Margot At the Wedding" is just plain brilliant.

The film opens with Margot (Nicole Kidman) and her son Claude (Zane Pais) on a train, headed to Margot's childhood home where her sister Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is about to marry a man named Malcolm (Jack Black), who is an unemployed artist type. Margot and Pauline have been at odds for a while now and Pauline is shocked that her sister actually came to her wedding. In turns out that Margot also traveled there to meet her occasional lover, Dick (Ciaran Hinds), while she is having troubles with her husband, Jim (John Turturro). Most of the film deals with Margot and Pauline re-connecting, as Margot also tries to overcome her differences with Malcolm. The whole film is about relationships, whether it's Margot's bizarre relationship with Claude, or her biting relationship with Pauline, or her hateful relationship with Malcolm. We see Margot as someone who is obviously unbalanced - mentally and socially. She might even have bi-polar disorder or something like that, we just don't know. She doesn't seem to far away from Annette Bening's character in "Running With Scissors". The film ends just as Noah Baumbach's films always tend to end, on a note or a gesture or a wink. He ends his films like that because it's more real.

This is just my type of film. For me, strong writing is paramount and you don't get any better than Noah Baumbach in that department. "Margot At the Wedding" features one of the best and most engaging screenplays of the year because it gives every character a chance to shine, and each gets their own 'moment' to shows what they can do. The relationships are also so intricately detailed, especially the one between Margot and Claude. Margot will be this possessive, controlling psycho mom at one point and then turn on a dime at the slightest glance. She is so overly-critical of her son that you can see the sadness in his face, at times, when she makes her observations. But, she is absolutely enthralled with him and can't stand being away from him. The relationship never feels sexual or "Oedipus" at all, but it does toe the line of unusual and just plain creepy. But, the one relationship we're supposed to care about most is between Kidman and Jennifer Jason Leigh, and we do. Both women have spent their lives trying to one-up each other, and they just cannot seem to be happy for the other. When Margot enters the picture, Pauline changes completely, which turns her fiancÚ, Malcolm into a bizarre place. He just doesn't know what he can say or do. Understanding family the way he does, Baumbach knows exactly how these people behave.

Now, to meat of the film - the performances. Rumor has it that the three leads in the film lived together while shooting the film so they could better perfect the feeling of a dysfunctional family, and boy did it work because the three leads are phenomenal. Nicole Kidman gives one of her best performances to date as Margot, certainly the most interesting character she's had in a long time. She is a walking ball of emotion for most of the film. Jennifer Jason Leigh deserves Academy Award consideration for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Pauline. She so rarely gets roles this complex, and she's always so brilliant at pulling them off. I am hoping this film sends more roles her way. She deserves them. And, Jack Black is very well cast here as the insecure and always high strung Malcolm. Black hasn't tested the waters with many genres, but he really gets some nice moments here when he could have taken them over the top, but didn't. It's probably the best role he's had and he handles it quite well. John Turturro and Ciaran Hinds also serve their supporting roles well, even though they really don't last very long at all.

I know it's becoming a broken record these days, but it's awards season and "Margot At the Wedding" is one of the best films of the year and will most certainly make my list. It's so rare when we get a film this honest and this sincere about people who seem as crazy as they come to most people. But, some of us grew up in families like that and can understand them all to well. Maybe that's why I identify with Noah Baumbach's writing so much. "Margot At the Wedding" should find itself nominations for Nicole Kidman for Best Actress, Jennifer Jason Leigh for Best Supporting Actress, Noah Baumbach for Best Original Screenplay and maybe even some nods for the music and the cinematography, if we're lucky. The film is currently playing in limited release, but I hope it will find a wider release sooner rather than later. "Margot At the Wedding" makes me glad to go to the movies. It's a film that's as creative as it is honest. Noah Baumbach is the king of making films that walk the line between creativity and honesty. This one is no exception.

10/10.
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