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
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
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
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.