Margot at the Wedding (2007)

Written and directed by Noah Baumbach
Produced by Scott Rudin, Blair Breard
Starring Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Zane Pais, Jack Black, Ciarán Hinds, Flora Cross, John Turturro, Halley Feiffer, Matthew Arkin, Seth Barrish, Michael Cullen, Enid Graham, Justin Roth, Brian Kelley

One might anticipate that a movie titled as though it’s one in a series of Comedies and Proverbs by a man who styled his son Rohmer and cast his wife in the part of one Pauline might be some breezily reflective exercise in penetrating loquacity, but Baumbach’s chatty farce works a talented cast to inconsequence, and can’t compare to prefigurative pictures by this epigone’s influences. Neurotic insecurities, infidelities, and needless miffs are the orders of every day during the sojourn of an overcritical, passive-aggressive authoress (Kidman) and her effeminate son (Pais) at her childhood home for the impendent wedding of her resentful sister (Leigh) to an aimless, depressive, huffily hypersensitive jackass (Black), which is at best tense before it’s disrupted by her unannounced but mansuete husband (Turturro), a historical novelist (Hinds) with whom she’s collaborating and sleeping, his sluttishly obnoxious daughter (Feiffer), and surly, trashy neighbors (Cullen, Graham). His script only wades calf-deep for the superficiality of Baumbach’s dramatis personae, represented nicely by a superlative cast who adroitly juggle his cunning, if unsteady vacillations between comedy and drama. Amusing contretemps, faux pas, familial gossip, and smash cuts tightly edited by Carol Littleton outshine illuminative insinuations and arguments that haven’t meat so memorable as the histrionics by which they’re actualized. Harris Savides’s deliberately drab cinematography is eventually as wearisome as underplots that fizzle funnily when they could’ve been substantively developed, or caricatures such as Feiffer’s floozy, Black’s bumbling layabout, and rednecks personated by Cullen and Graham, who goyishly manhandle a ponderous, porcine carcass in their bathroom that they later barbecue in their backyard before a flown American flag. The limits of Baumbach’s integrity and intelligence were bared earlier this year by his coactive infusion of third-wave agitprop into a feature advertisement for Barbie‘s brand with the corrupted ’83 for whom he traded in his gifted ’62, which won’t surprise anyone who’s studied how he rigorously put two durable leading ladies and their co-stars through their paces for such paltry results.

Instead, watch The Odd Couple, Claire’s Knee, Scenes from a Marriage, Hannah and her Sisters, Boyfriend of My Girlfriend, September, A Tale of Springtime, Husbands and Wives, A Serious Man, or The Overnight.

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