A ‘Wedding’ Worth Attending

by Ian T. McFarland on November 30, 2007

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Margot at the Wedding
  • Rating: 4.5 Stars
  • IMDB: link

The best dramas are the ones that make you fall for the characters, and because of this Margot at the Wedding is one of the best dramas of the year.  Sweet and funny in even some of its darkest moments, it’s a movie that fully exploits character developments and relationships without ever hinting at becoming sappy.

The plot is simple enough – Margot (Nicole Kidman) ventures back home from the big city for the wedding of her sister Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to the sporadically depressed but endearing Malcolm (Jack Black).  It might sound like a joyous occasion, but it’s anything but, thanks to the inability of Margot to just shut up and love her family.  Never content with herself or her surroundings, she constantly criticizing everyone within eyeshot, descending from her high throne of a New York socialite, a writer who spends more time analyzing the world than she ought to.  Blithely and sneeringly, she can put down her sister’s confidence, fiancé and pregnancy inside of a single breath.  She’s really a disgusting person, but it’s clear that she’s aware and haunted by her repulsive behavior.

Writer-director Noah Baumbach deserves credit for putting forth a screenplay that sends the characters through dozens of realistic, emotional loops; though with a character study film like this, the script is only as good as its cast – and the actors nails it.  Black erases the memories of over-acting from King Kong by subtly making his annoying character lovable.  Leigh gives a heart-felt performance too, and the young Zane Pais gives a strong debut as Margot’s son; but KIdman is the one that deserves the water cooler conversation.  It’s difficult to make an insecure taddler someone you can empathize with, but Kidman pulls it off.  In most movies, you would just pray that her kind of character get hit by a car and a serious load of comeuppance so that you wouldn’t have to put up with the character’s bitching anymore; but Kidman is a strong enough actress that she’ll make the audience hope she learns to mute her flaws and learn to become a better person.  She’s at the top of her game here, and deserves a nomination for Best Actress.

Baumbach proved his ability with calm, quick character pieces two years ago with the masterful The Squid and the Whale, about a family as it goes through a divorce, and he certainly hasn’t lost a drop of talent since then.  His competent and collected portrayal of a loving but broken family is a smooth as a slide – you’ll get so caught up in the personalities that you’ll forget you’re that you’re watching a movie entirely, until a character receives a blow that makes you realize how invested you are in these characters as your heart breaks.

In a fall season that hasn’t had any break-out hits demanding Oscar buzz, Margot at the Wedding is the most noteworthy release so far; and if Baumbach can keep bringing theaters the easy-going personal stories, he’s sure to become one of our country’s greatest filmmakers.

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