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Margot at the Wedding Movie Poster

Margot at the Wedding
Three and a Half out of Five Stars
Genre: Drama/Comedy
Rated: R
Directed by:
Noah Baumbach
Nicole Kidman, Jack Black, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Flora Cross, Zane Pais
Released by: Paramount Classics

In Short: Nicole Kidman tears up the scenery and Jack Black bares all in this compelling family drama from the writer-director of “The Squid and the Whale.”

Savage Sisters
Deconstructing Dysfunctional Sibling Rivalry
by Jenny Peters

Writer-director Noah Baumbach has a keen sense of family dynamics. He proved that in 2005, with “The Squid and the Whale,” which won him a 2006 Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. “Margot at the Wedding” is Baumbach’s latest look at how families work, this time focusing on two long-estranged sisters who reunite for the wedding of the younger.

Nicole Kidman is Margot, a very successful, very self-involved author, who brings her teen son, Claude (newcomer Zane Pais, who gives a terrific performance) along as she returns to her family home, where her sister Pauline lives. Pauline is about to marry Malcolm (Jack Black); that is, until her judgmental sister arrives and begins to sow dissent and discord in her wake.

Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jack Black in Margot at the Wedding
Jack Black and Nicole Kidman in Margot at the Wedding

As the serio-comic story unfolds, it becomes obvious that Margot’s life is a real mess, as she’s mired in an unhappy affair, is on the verge of divorcing her husband, and perhaps even close to having a nervous breakdown. But those are facts that she will not admit, instead finding it easier to focus on making her sister miserable about her life choices.

This densely-layered look at how sibling rivalry remains a life constant, no matter how much time passes, is a well-written and well-acted endeavor, with extremely believable characters. Jack Black’s schlubby, needy take on Malcolm is particularly good, even though seeing the chubby actor in a small pair of tighty whities isn’t exactly a high point in the history of cinema beefcake.

Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Jason Leigh in Margot at the Wedding
Jack Black in Margot at the Wedding

Jennifer Jason Leigh (who happens to be married to Baumbach) is terrific as the woman who can’t help but be influenced by her harsh older sister, and Kidman (an actress who is often so mannered she is annoying to watch) seems born to play this character, with just the right edge of icy conceit paired with deep insecurity.

And while there’s no reason to see this film in the theaters in terms of visual excitement, it is certainly a worthwhile picture to check out, whether now on the big screen or later on DVD.

(Updated 11/16/07 NJ)

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