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Margot at the Wedding Review

GATW Guest Writer

by: GATW Guest Writer
December 9th, 2007

Noah Baumbach is the writer/director behind the 2005 critical hit The Squid and The Whale, a smart, entertaining, and semi-autobiographical account of his parent’s divorce. Mr. Baumbach’s newest film is Margot at the Wedding, a rather joyless film, whose unpleasant characters are bursting with emotional pain and toxic memories. As you are introduced to the film’s characters you know things are going to be said and done during this weekend that have been building up for many years and will never be repaired.

Nicole Kidman shows she is very capable at playing Margot, the passive aggressive, and sometimes just aggressive title character. Margot cuts down her sister, sweet and soon to be ex-husband, and even her beloved child whenever she feels vulnerable. She’s constantly using her sharp tongue as a way of getting out of honest exchanges between her and her “loved” ones.

The wedding at the center of the film belongs to Margot’s sister, Pauline, who is played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, the director’s real life wife. It is evident that Margot has done something in the past to severely hurt Pauline. However, Pauline is trying to forgive Margot and tries to show her willingness to rebuild their friendship by inviting her to the wedding. Although it is never clear if Pauline’s attempt are earnest or driven by Pauline’s attraction to Margot’s somewhat celebrity, since Margot is a successful writer.

Pauline’s soon to be husband is Malcolm. Malcolm is played Jack Black, who shows that he is a more than capable dramatic actor, not just having to rely on gimmicks or noises to attract an audience’s attention. You think Malcolm is going to be the saving grace among the film’s like less characters, however it turns out he is just repulsive as the rest. He is an out of work, overweight, loser who desperately wants to be famous but has done nothing to deserve it.

Margot at The Wedding chronicles Pauline’s disastrous attempt to allow Margot back into her life. The film is shot in a bare bones approach containing predominantly hand held shots, awkward framing, and low lighting. When Margot confesses a very personal secret about Pauline to her son, Claude, the lighting is very murky and it is framed as if shot by an amateur photographer, obviously on purpose. This style works to make the audience feel like they are watching their friend’s very awkward and tense vacation tapes.

Emotional baggage is unpacked throughout this film. However, as the characters are confronted and their inner demons are exposed, there is never a sense of redemption, just venom and the formation of new bitter memories to keep inside for many years.

The film’s humor is what keeps Margot at the Wedding from being an altogether unpleasant experience. As you probably assume much of that humor comes from Jack Black, who shows he can be loud and funny, as well as slight and funny. The soundtrack is also a bright spot in this mean-spirited film. However, not many songs are featured in the film. Most of the time the audience is just forced to listen to uncomfortable silence as the characters continuously misbehave.

Margot at the Wedding bombards the audience with one bitter and uncomfortable scene after another. If you’re expecting a bittersweet, funny and ultimately satisfying film you will be disappointed. However, if you’re an emotional masochist then you will be in torture Heaven.

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