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