While billed as sort of a bleak comedy, you should know this before you see Margot at the Wedding: while funny at (a lot of) times, the “bleak” definitely takes precedence over “comedy”.
I have been a Noah Baumbach fan since Kicking and Screaming which perfectly captured my (post) college pseudo-angst (this movie is out on Criterion, and you want it, and NEED IT) and I loved “Mr. Jealousy” and “The Squid and The Whale too”. Baumbach makes angry movies for civilized people.
In them, perfectly well educated, seemingly well mannered (and often unlikable) people fall apart at the seams in their artfully disheveled Brooklyn brownstones, their perfectly manicured small liberal arts colleges and in this case, their family beach homes and it is always a thrill to watch.
Because well educated people insult each other in significantly more quotable ways, that’s why.
The story is simple: Margot (Nicole Kidman, pretty yet dowdy in a way smart women who know they’re beautiful sometimes are), a patrician, early 40s Manhatannite (she keeps reminding everyone she lives in Manhattan), escaping a not-so-perfect-but-perfectly-respectable-marriage arrives, son Claude (who is wonderfully awkward and 13) to her family’s beach home in what looks like Maine to me to see her sister Pauline (Jenifer Jason Leigh, at her most fragile) marry Malcolm (Jack Black, sporting ironic mustache and a majorly major paunch) a “musician and letter writer”.
Needless to say, Margot disaproves.
Rounding out the cast are: Pauline’s daughter, a well known next-door writer (who Margot is sleeping with), his sexy 17 year old daughter (“She is stupid!”-proclaims Margot. “She got into Harvard early”-says Claude, to which she promptly retorts “That means nothing. A LOT OF stupid people get into Harvard early”) and a hilariously rednecky neighbouring family who want to cut down the tree Pauline and Malcolm are planning to get married under. (the house and the garden are characters as well)
Over the next few days:
They eat. (homemade bread and mussels)
They drink. (white wine with ice cubes)
They read. (their own and self-help books)
They climb trees. (and get stuck)
They talk about music and family and art and love and they play croquet (while wearing sweaters and shorts and boat shoes).
Childhood and young adulthood rivalries come alive. (the swimming scene is amazing: “Margot, you cheated!” “What does it matter, I didn’t win anyway!”)
New problems develop by the second.
Old problems refuse to go away.
Pauline is weak but determined. (Noah Baumbach gave Jenifer Jason Lee, his wife, a plum if less showy sister role)
Margot is a monster. (Nicole Kidman is baiting the Oscar by the second, despite the fact that at this point she cannot move her face from all the botox)
Malcolm is an overeducated, too-smart-for-his-own-good loser, who can’t deal with rejection. So he doesn’t even try.
Their children are confused and lost and yet somehow the only sane people in this whole mess.
AND EVERYONE, EVERYONE IS SINFULLY SELFISH.
It is all very sad, and yet very entertaining too, and over the course of (a very trim) hour and a half, we witness the unstoppably downward spiral of this family.
Go and see it.
But bring some prozac for afterwards.
And I mean it.