Don’t ever invite the one person that may stop the marriage, to your actual wedding.
A mother named Margot (Nicole Kidman) and her son named Claude (Zane Pais) live together and are constantly angry at the things around them. They go to visit a relative (Jennifer Jason Leigh) over the weekend, for that person’s wedding but the problem is that the soon-to-be husband (Jack Black) of that husband, isn’t exactly Mr. Charming. But in Margot’s eyes: almost no one is.
Writer/director Noah Baumbach doesn’t seem like the right kind of guy for me. His films are filled with characters that are so damn unlikable, that you would much rather shoot them than be in the same family as them, and the dialogue has that natural feel to it, but also gets very weird and quirky for no reason at all. He always seems to base his movies in reality, but a type of reality that is pessimistic, miserable, and downright uneven. Maybe that’s how life is, but for me; it doesn’t seem so. That’s why Baumbach never seems to deliver the goods and this flick is no different.
The biggest problem I hit with this flick was that barely anybody here drew me in, nor did they even have me compelled by what they were going to do next with their lives. Quite frankly, I couldn’t give a shit about them. Sounds harsh but the film is just dedicated to each one of these characters either constantly fighting with one another, acting strange just for the sake of it, saying how they really feel at random and sometimes, unnecessary moments, and getting into arguments where it gets so heated, they’re about to kill each other the next second. I mean I know family can be a bitch at times, but never as bad as they are displayed here. Almost every single scene that goes by, nobody ever seems to enjoy each other’s company and it never changes. Whether or not Baumbach meant for us to share the same misery these characters were feeling, is totally beyond me.
I mean, I get it. Not everybody in the world we live in is going to be as sweet as pumpkin pie but this film takes that a little too far to where it’s just an annoyance. Watching people practically beat the ever, loving shit out of the other in a verbal, and sometimes physical war. What makes it even worse is that this film is one hell of a sloppy piece-of-work because Baumbach never seems to be able to make a cohesive story here, and resorts to just snipping together random, short shots of these characters either reacting with each other, or just standing there looking mad/angry/sad. It’s cool what Baumbach can handle his characters without ever having any real plot to work with, but he doesn’t succeed at that here and I think it’s mainly because he trusted too much in his writing to win everybody over. Qurkiness can only go so far, and it went a bit far for our man, Noah, here.
This was even more of a shame to see in this flick is because of the movie that came before this, The Squid and the Whale. It’s probably my favorite Baumbach flick and shows that the guy can handle quirkiness, but also throw in some real, honest emotions to-spare where we feel for the characters involved, no matter how self-centered or despicable they may be. It seems as if Baumbach tried to do some of that here, but it doesn’t have as much steam as that indie-gem had. The characters from that movie were pretty damn unlikeable, but at least they had some sort of sympathetic side to them, deep-down inside. You had to look far for it, but when you found it all out, it worked wonders for the flick and it seemed like Baumbach tried to do the same thing here, just without any likeable-traits whatsoever. I can’t lie, there were some parts of this film that had me interested and made me laugh, but they were also very few and far my dear. Very few and far.
Even though the characters and story-line sort of blow, the cast still owns and show exactly why they deserve roles like these, no matter how detestable they can be. Nicole Kidman is great as the confused, bitchy, and often terrible mother that can’t seem to get her head around whatever it is that she wants in life. Kidman has always been a powerhouse in every performance she’s given, but she’s allowed to play a more mean character than we usually see from her and I think she handles it well. Since every scene consists of her bitching everybody-out that’s around her at that time, it’s not very hard to see exactly why a gal like this would own at playing such a evil mother. Yes, she even bitches out her own son. Damn woman!
Jennifer Jason Leigh always has had a knack for coming off as very sunny, bright-eyed, and likable and her role as Pauline really worked for her in that aspect. The fact that she’s so happy with life and her sister is such a huge bitch, really seemed strange to me, but then again, I guess that’s what happens in life. Life can take you down different paths of life, and I guess that’s what this flick was trying to show us with these two sissies that just so happen to be blood-related, but yet have completely, different out-looks on life. Still don’t know how a hot momma like Leigh ended-up with Jack Black, but hey, that’s what movies are made for, right? Speaking of the one and the only, Jack Black, he’s actually very good as Malcolm, Pauline’s soon-to-be-husband and brings a lot of that comedic-timing to this movie (that is so rightfully needed) and also has some nice dramatic touches as well. Malcolm is probably the most realistic and chill character of the whole film, and it’s never fully explained why the hell Margot hated him so much to begin with. He was the only guy in this film that made me want to continue watching and actually give it more of a shot than it deserved. Never thought I’d say this about any movie, but Jack Black was the best part of it. God, now that I think about it: this movie really must have sucked.
Consensus: Noah Baumbach at least deserves some sort of credit for making a story for Margot at the Wedding, solely out of random snippets of character emotions and happenings, but that’s not much when you consider how loathsome and mean these characters can be, without any sense of love or kindness in their hearts.
3 / 10 = Indie Crapola!!
I wrote a review five years ago when I first saw this movie. I ultimately disagreed with you. I wrote, “If ever there were an award for a movie with the most passive aggressive insults and awkward conversations, done so matter-of-factly, this film would win with no dispute.
Written and directed by Noah Baumbach, this movie continues the same precedent, established with The Squid and the Whale (2005), that of suburban, upper middle-class, white intellectuals at odds with each other over their relationships.
The movie isn’t very cinematic. It almost works better as a radio drama. It’s very wordy, but there are some very interesting things to look at, or be warned of, namely a masturbation scene by Nicole Kidman.
But, trust me, no other sexual act is portrayed on screen, besides this one. However, there is a lot of frank discussion about sex. Not since Closer (2004), Mike Nichols’ adaptation of the stage play concerning the love lives of two couples, have I heard such open and honest dialogue about fornication.
Baumbach’s bold, brash, and to the point, screenplay was in my top five of best screenplays of 2007. One reason was because no topic here is taboo. Margot talks about molestation over a picnic table. She’ll laugh about it on the living room couch. She’ll talk about erections and condoms with her teenage son, as casually as if she were talking about the weather.
MARGOT AT THE WEDDING concerns Margot attending the New York nuptials of her neurotic sister, living in Long Island, who is about to marry a man that Margot feels she shouldn’t. The film is an examination of the sibling rivalry that manifests itself from insecurities that both sisters face, which ultimately gets projected on others, like their children.”
Nice review man! I didn’t love it really, but it just didn’t do much in terms of building up characters or emotions. Just left me with a very empty feeling.
Damn 3/10 not sure if this one is worth the effort.
Not really. Unless you want to be angered and depressed.
Dan I can just watch the news for that 😉
EWWWWWW….a 3 for sure! :p
“Staring into space, and judging the atmosphere. What a bitch.” You should be a comedian, oh wait are you?
Hahah sort of. A couple of gigs, here and there.
Sounds fun. Love snarky reviews like this btw 😛
The fact that Jack Black can be the best part of it almost makes me want to see this movie. Almost.
I actually really enjoyed this one Dan and rated it very highly. I agree that the characters were unlikable but i still entered into their dysfunctionality. The Squid and the Whale is definitely Baumbach finest moment but I found this to be an impressive follow-up. Totally understand why many wouldn’t like it, though. Nice write-up buddy.
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I remember seeing this a few years ago and I only rented it out because of Nicole Kidman (love her). It was laborious to watch and whilst all the actors did a fine job (agree Jack Black was very good), it didn’t really seem to go anywhere for me. This film essentially acts as social commentary – a depiction of one family and the imperfection that resonates between each individual and how their relationships impact upon one another. I generally am drawn to films that offer snapshots of moments in people’s lives but I just found this one to be very hard work. I only endured it for Nic. 🙂