Wed­ding crash­ers

MAR­GOT AT THE WED­DING Di­rected by Noah Baum­bach. Star­ring Ni­cole Kid­man, Jen­nifer Ja­son Leigh, Jack Black, John Tur­turro, Ciaran Hinds, Zane Pais

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews - MICHAEL DWYER

16 cert, Cineworld/Screen, Dublin, 92 min

AT THE cen­tre of Mar­got at the Wed­ding are two sis­ters who have not spo­ken in two years. They un­suc­cess­fully at­tempt to put their mu­tual bit­ter­ness be­hind them when short-story writer Mar­got (Ni­cole Kid­man) re­turns to the fam­ily home for the wed­ding of her sis­ter Pauline (Jen­nifer Ja­son Leigh) to Mal­colm (Jack Black), a failed mu­si­cian.

Ten­sions crackle when Mar­got ar­rives with her an­drog­y­nous ado­les­cent son (Zane Pais). She makes no at­tempt to dis­guise her dis­ap­proval of Mal­colm: “He’s like guys we re­jected when we were 16,” she tells Pauline. Mar­got, who has mar­i­tal prob­lems of her own, has asked her hus­band (John Tur­turro) not to come to the wed­ding, and she is due to par­tic­i­pate in a lo­cal book­store event with her ex-lover (Ciaran Hinds), an ar­ro­gant, adul­ter­ous nov­el­ist.

Writer-di­rec­tor Noah Baum­bach mines this ripe ter­ri­tory for dark com­edy, but falls quite some way short of the deft achieve­ment of his pre­vi­ous film, The Squid and the Whale, which was sharper in wit and fo­cus.

Given that he also col­lab­o­rated with Wes An­der­son on the script

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zis­sou, Baum­bach ap­par­ently has a pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with dys­func­tional fam­i­lies. One trusts that this is un­con­nected to his up­bring­ing as the son of two film crit­ics or to his re­la­tion­ship with Jen­nifer Ja­son Leigh, whom he mar­ried in 2005.

Leigh gives the most ad­ven­tur­ous per­for­mance in Mar­got, while Kid­man is at her most glacial as the neu­rotic sis­ter, and Black pro­vides some wel­come light re­lief, spout­ing the wit­tier lines with a droll de­liv­ery.

This mean-spir­ited movie is filled with such un­sym­pa­thetic, self-ab­sorbed char­ac­ters that it’s very easy to un­der­stand and ac­cept their dis­like for each other, but very hard to care what hap­pens to any of them. Baum­bach has cited Eric Rohmer’s Pauline at the Beach (1983) as his in­spi­ra­tion, but that film was far su­pe­rior in ev­ery re­spect.

Mar­got my mon­strous mum: Ni­cole Kid­man and Zane Pais

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