November 21, 2007 -- “Margot at the Wedding” is one of those edgy, independent art films that tend to split critics down the middle. Half like it, half don't. I'm not split on it at all. I'm firmly in the camp of those hated it. You'd have to pay me a lot of money to get me to watch this again. It is a dark, unfunny mixture of drama and comedy about a highly dysfunctional family and their dysfunctional friends. It is writer-director Noah Baumbach's follow up to his acclaimed film “The Squid and the Whale.” It could also be his swan song. If ever a comedy needed someone like Fred Willard, Martin Mull or even Bob Balaban for comic relief, it is this movie. Some critics think a movie containing mostly unpleasant characters is worth seeing. This movie has characters so obnoxious that even some critics who believe audiences deserve punishment are re-evaluating their theories about whether art films should contain at least a little bit of entertainment.
Nicole Kidman (“The Interpreter”) stars as Margot, a joyless woman who writes books about characters in dysfunctional relationships, evidently based on her own experiences. Estranged from her sister, Pauline (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh of “The Jacket”) she nevertheless journeys to her sister's wedding along with her troubled son, Claude (Zane Pais) who is as close to normal as can be expected, given his corrosive upbringing. The boy's father, Jim (John Turturro of “Transformers”) seems fairly normal, but appears only briefly in the film. Another guy named Toby (Seth Barrish) also seems somewhat harmless, but he's just a blip in the film. Pauline's daughter, Ingrid (Flora Cross of “Bee Season”) seems O.K. too, although how she escaped the madness around her is a mystery.
Margot has an uncanny knack for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. She is also the queen of put downs. Nearly every word out of her mouth is demeaning and condescending. She is the kind of clueless woman who would continue to relentlessly insult you and your family even if you put a gun to her head and told her to stop immediately or else. She simply has no clue and can't keep her trap shut. Margot's sister Pauline has her own problems, the main one being her husband to be, Malcolm (Jack Black of “School of Rock”) an out of work artist who is immature and emotionally fragile. I can't tell you what a pleasure it was to watch these characters tear each other to shreds for what seemed like three hours (it was really only 91 minutes) because it wasn't. Pauline was still hanging out with her sister near the end of the movie for some unfathomable reason when she should have run away screaming.
In one scene Malcolm starts talking about his experiments with urinating while sitting down. This is during a meal with a number of people at the table. Now that's real eye-rolling humor, and it is a fair example of the laughs you can expect from this film. Calling Fred Willard! Where are you when we need you? In addition to the lame humor and obnoxious characters, this film was shot mostly indoors with available light. Some scenes are so murky you can't really tell what's going on. The sound quality wasn't good either. The only good thing I can say about this movie is that I didn't have to pay to see it. This film rates an F.
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