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Paramount Vantage

Official Site

Director: Noah Baumbach

Produces: Scott Rudin

Written by: Noah Baumbach

Cast: Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jack Black, John Turturro, Zane Pais


Some movies, you wait until the very last minute to write your review. You dread having to write about them, having to think about them. I saw a mighty fine movie today, and I'm bursting to tell people about it, but I'm required to hold my review until the opening date. Boy would I love to be writing about Persepolis right now.

Instead, I must do my duty toward Margot At The Wedding. I very much wanted to like this movie, having thought well of The Squid And The Whale. That and The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou form the extent of my Baumbach knowledge, so there was no real track record to lead me to expect lightning to strike again.

Why did anyone want to make this movie? I get that Baumbach maybe wanted to write something to display the acting chops of his spouse (Leigh), so congrats. She's up to the task. But we knew that. In fact, there's probably not much this little lady can't do. And I can definitely see Kidman wanting to stretch beyond the big-noise productions she is generally in, wanting to show that she's not just a pretty (evil) face. Turturro just wants to work with a certain caliber of director, I think. Plus, his presence fairly screams, "This is work to be taken seriously!"

Baumbach has said that he has always viewed life as material for his movies. And from his interest in working with young actors, having young characters observing and trying to make sense of weird adult behaviors, I can see now that Baumbach is getting some very expensive therapy.

In this case, we're looking at a tale of a mother who's a seriously nasty piece of work and her clingy pubertal son. Margot (Kidman) and Claude (Pais) cross the country to attend the backyard wedding of her sister Pauline (Leigh) to her seemingly unsuitable sweetie Malcolm (Black). Margot fucks up everything for everybody, herself included. How? Oh, by undermining confidence. You've surely known people like this, who make comments that they must know will be hurtful or unsettling, while hiding behind the pretext that they just want to be oh so honest with you. That's Margot. Then she cuts and runs. End of story. You know that Carly Simon song, "No Secrets?" It has a great line: "Sometimes I wish that I never knew some of the secrets of yours."

But Margot isn't the villain. She's just the prettiest face in a gang of emotional hoodlums. All of the adults here, with the exception of Turturro's Jim, are so irresponsible and self-centered and petty that it seems criminal to expose children to their behavior. I actually was itching to be able to file a complaint with Protective Services. It's not that there aren't nasty, messed-up people in the world. And I don't particularly mind seeing nasty, messed-up-ness on screen. I do mind having to sit through an exercise in discomfort for discomfort's sake. You just thought it wasn't possible to squirm more than when you saw The Squid And The Whale. Here, Baumbach has turned it up to 11. But where The Squid And The Whale at least seemed to have some grown-up sensibility, some adult awareness of the meaning of things lived through in childhood, MATW feels like the intact memories of a young teen. In some scenes, the young boy understands the significance of the events what he's witnessing, and so do we. In others, he's just recollecting who did and said what to whom, without any sense of what was actually going on. Because he's baffled, we're baffled too.

And eventually, because Margot isn't my mother and Pauline isn't my aunt, I was just tired of it all, and eager to be away.

—Roxanne Bogucka

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

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