Margot travels to see her sister Pauline’s wedding. While there Margot does everything in her power to convince her sister to not marry this man she believes is beneath her. Meanwhile, Margot tries to hook up with a former boyfriend while her son Claude sits back and takes everything in.
Noah Baumbach has a great ear for dialogue. He also has a natural talent for writing dysfunction. His 1995 film Kicking and Screaming set the independent world on fire, showcasing a group of college graduates who refused to move on in life. His 2005 Oscar nominated movie The Squid and the Whale took his ear for dialogue and directed it toward family dysfunction. In Margot at the Wedding, he takes the family dysfunction of The Squid and the Whale and cranks it up to a blazing level.
Margot (Nicole Kidman) travels to see her sister (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who is preparing to get married. Margot is neurotic to a fault. She is completely against the wedding because she believes that the fiancé (Jack Black) is worthless. The sisters have not spoken in years, although it is never said why. Now that they are reunited, Margot is doing everything possible to hurt everyone involved. It is clear from the start why the sisters cannot get along, as they are very much alike, sharing a dangerous neurosis that does nothing but hurt each other and everyone who loves them. It may have been because of their childhood and experiences with their parents, and that proves very important as the movie progresses.
The film is broken up into vignettes, conversations used to develop the characterization. Margot and her sister continue to build conflict as much with what is not said, as what is said. Margot is the equivalent in this film to Jeff Daniels’ character in The Squid and the Whale. It is hard to understand why anyone would want to be close to her, why anyone would want to care about her and why anyone would want to put up with her shit. She is the type of character who lies to turn people against each other and only cares about herself. She purposefully hurts people with her words, with no sense of regret, whether it be her sister or her own son.
What is disturbing is how Baumbach allows the adults in his pieces to act out their insecurities and neuroses in front of their children. The topic of this film, as in The Squid and the Whale, is more about the cause and effect of the parent’s actions on their own children. In The Squid and the Whale, it was about the results of said actions, with the children already fucked up, trying to live in the shadows of their parents. In Margot at the Wedding, we actually see the causes of the dysfunction. The kids are still relatively normal, but sit in the background watching their parents self destruct. It is almost as if the kids are studying their parent’s actions, preparing to take their place as the next generation of dysfunctional families.
I don’t know if Noah Baumbach came from a dysfunctional family, but it would explain a lot. The conversations between the family members are too real and too painful to just be a base creation. The people in this movie, as well as The Squid and the Whale, are damaged beyond repair and it is in that area that Baumbach specializes. When watching a Baumbach film, you feel as if you are spying on people, watching them strip down their defenses while destroying everyone they love.
What makes his films work so well is that while watching the people destroying themselves, you laugh. It is an uneasy feeling, laughing at people who have so much wrong with them, but Baumbach is an expert at creating that sensation. Margot at the Wedding is another masterpiece from a filmmaker who has one of the most unique and interesting styles in filmmaking. It may not be quite the success The Squid and the Whale was, but it is still better than what most filmmakers are putting out today.
The video quality is average for this type of film, presented in 16:9 Widescreen. The sound is fantastic. There is a lack of music, but the effects, foley and backgrounds are spectacularly rendered. It is in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and Baumbach hits one out of the park with this transfer. There is a great conversation between Jennifer Jason Leigh and Noah Baumbach as they talk about the movie and everyone involved. There are also two trailers and some previews.