Noah Baumbach’s Margot at the Wedding has all the twee details guaranteed to make teeth itch and skin crawl.
It’s got it all – wobbly cameras, uncombed hair, overstated understatement, 1970s snowflake patterned knitwear – Noah Baumbach’s Margot at the Wedding has all the twee details guaranteed to make teeth itch and skin crawl.
Add to that the kind of familial dysfunction and insidious psychological torture that we can all get for free from a trip back home, and it seems that this is a film certain to have you poking out your own eyeballs in irritation. And yet somehow it doesn’t. Instead, it’s compelling and affecting, and the grainy home-movie look makes it all feel painfully real.
The film follows the kind of family breakdown that made Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale such a success. Neurotic writer Margot (Nicole Kidman) turns up just days before the wedding of her estranged sister, Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Taking an instant dislike to Pauline’s fiancé Malcolm (Jack Black), a failed musician and unemployed artist, Margot’s compulsive interference sets off a chain of events that send the already fragile family into emotional collapse.
What really raise the film from banal to brilliant are the performances. Kidman stands out as the brittle, hypercritical Margot with a turn that harks back to her glory days of To Die For and proves that no one does neurotic, psychotic or despotic quite as prettily as she does. Jack Black is almost a revelation, succumbing only once or twice to the eye-rolling overacting he’s known and loved for.
Magnetic, subtly tragic and ultimately sympathetic, Margot at the Wedding is worth a watch – if only to remind yourself why you don’t go home for Christmas anymore.
The latest from an indie princeling.
When you’re praising Nicole Kidman, you know that things are going well.
This is Baumbach’s comfortable milieu, so let’s not get too excited.