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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Blind Picks from Netflix: Margot at The Wedding

I rented Noah Baumbach's Margot at The Wedding because I adored his humane, tragic 2005 family drama The Squid and The Whale. Like The Squid and The Whale, Margot has a very strong cast, with Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Jason Lee wringing all they can out of the script as the eponymous Margot and her estranged sister Pauline.

Acclaimed author Margot (Kidman) and her androgynous son Claude (Zane Pais) return to the family home to see her sister Pauline (Lee) get married to the oafish Malcolm (Jack Black). She brings with her a cloud of bitter poison that taints the entire affair. She hates her sister's taste in men, hates the man she's having an affair with, and hates herself for a variety of reasons. She also has unbelievably poor boundaries with her young son, her neighbors, and pretty much anyone who can stand being in a room with her for more than five minutes. Plot-wise, this is about all we get; Margot at The Wedding is a character study that focuses on family dysfunction without any notable plot points, conflicts or climaxes.

I found Margot at The Wedding to be unbearably pretentious, humourless and utterly without purpose. With its washed out colors, long, drawn out scenes and forced dialogue, it almost seems like a parody of an artsy Sundance film. Almost, but not quite; you can tell that Baumbach is taking his character study all too seriously. Pauline and Margot are so thoroughly bricked up in their ivory towers that nothing can drag them down to earth with the rest of humanity. Maybe that's to Baumbach's credit, though; he accurately depicts the Literary Genius in its natural habitat. When you hear Margot laughing about how her older sister was raped as a child by her horse trainer, you start to get a picture of what Joyce Carol Oates' or Anne Sexton's family reunions might have been like.


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