I absolutely adored Noah Baumbach's last film The Squid and the Whale; it perfectly and realistically captured the drama of going through a divorce through a child's perspective. His first film Kicking and Screaming is a 90's classic, and very well sums up what it was like to be a young adult during that moment in time. So I was hoping and expecting more from Margot at the Wedding; a strangely unfocused film, with some very intense performances from Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Jason Leigh.
This film is much more of an actor's piece (it could have easily been made into play), than any kind of film-maker's exercise. Baumbach almost unconsciously points his hand-held camera in the direction of the actors, as they tear into these meaty dialogues about family, friends, faith and everything in-between. Margot, played with ice in her veins by Nicole Kidman, is a mother and semi-successful author. She and her teenage son have come to her childhood home to attempt to heal her relationship with her long estranged sister, played with bravado by Jennifer Jason Leigh. She's getting married to a pretentious, louse of a man; Jack Black in his most realistic role. Caught in the middle are the two teenage children, who try to escape the verbal assaults without too much adolescent trauma.
It's often painful and sometimes funny to watch these sisters converse with one another. One minute they're completely in love, best friends; the next they're practically tearing each other's eyes out; and they're constantly berating the other behind their backs, to anyone who has the misfortune of being at this disgrace of a wedding weekend. Both the women put on quite a show; one minute you love and feel for them, but a quick tongued barb later, there's nothing but contempt. Both are insanely bright about the world, but at the same time completely clueless of how to treat their friends and family. Baumbach's camera makes you feel like a member of this highly dysfunctional and well bred family.
Margot at the Wedding drops you off at this cold beach house for a dramatic weekend with a seriously messed up family; there's a lot of fighting and screaming, some awkward moments, a few painful laughs, and a bit of personal growth. The performances by the three leads and two kids make it worth watching, everyone is at the top of their game. Not a whole of of story is developed, it's not as funny as I was expecting, and it's not anywhere near totally satisfying, but ultimately it's an interesting film. - Grade: C+