Directed By Noah Baumbach
Starring Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jack Black
It’s sort of hard to make this film sound interesting without going point to point through the plot, which I don’t want to do. I do want the film to sound interesting though because it is. Basically what we have here is an extremely dysfunctional family trying to get through a wedding. Margot (Kidman) had originally told her sister Pauline (Leigh) that she couldn’t come to her wedding but Margot has a change of heart and decides to make the trip if for no other reason than to run away for a while from her own crumbling family life.
There’s an odd very mild surreal feeling to the film but it’s grounded by the use of natural lighting and handheld cameras along with wholly defined and believable if not exactly likeable characters. Margot is above it all able to tell everyone what their problems are and how the problems can be solved while Pauline is an emotional mess. They come from what feels like a long line of dysfunction culminating with an abusive father. Pauline is living in their family home so Margot hopes to take comfort in the familiar surroundings but even that doesn’t help her get away from her own issues because a man she is having an affair with lives nearby and her husband is insisting on coming in for the wedding even if Margot doesn’t want him too. While Margot isn’t blatantly abusive to her own son she is still passing along the family dysfunction by constantly manipulating him.
Pauline hasn’t known this new man in her life for very long and she is already marrying him, obviously looking for someone to bring stability to her life. Her fiancé (Black) though is obviously not the man for the job as he himself has depression and other mental limitations. This may be Jack Black’s most interesting performance so far. The character is reminiscent of his early work in High Fidelity minus the snarkiness.
This black comedy is a fascinating look into the emotional connection for better and for worse, between two sisters. It’s smart but not too smart to feel real. In that reality way it almost feels voyeuristic at times. Every actor is at their very best in this film. They get to play characters with meaningful impact and believable backgrounds within a story that’s subtle even at its most high concept scenes and it even features light metaphor for those looking for more depth in the story. Consider this, part of the plot involves a giant tree on the family property is loved by the family but everyone outside the family sees the tree as rotting. Pauline and Margot have always lived the lives they live within the family they are part of so this is all they know and in a dysfunctional way seems right to them while onlookers know the family is a mess. I’ve explained it more here than is ever explained in the film which is what makes the metaphor so fantastic in the film. Baumbach seems to just turn the cameras on and juts lets things happen so it all comes through without beating the audience over the head in any way. The only time this style is a problem is at the end of the film. I like that the film just sort of stops rather makes someone get sick and die and bring the family together which is the common formula for Hollywood but the end comes so quick that you might miss a few important bits of the story specifically related to character evolution. That’s what’s great about DVD, you can rewind it and check out the ending again if you need too.
I wasn’t interested in seeing this film at all for the story but the actors involved did get my attention and I’m really glad I gave it a chance. Margot at the Wedding is highly recommended for anyone who likes movies.
This anamorphic presentation actually looks better than it did in the art house theater where I originally saw this film. The film is often quite dark which can be challenging to DVD presentation and this disc comes through strong. Colors are purposefully muted but skin tones look good and there’s no artifacting or compression issues and grain is very minimal. It’s no demo disc but for a lower budget art house film the presentation her is surprisingly good.
This is a talking film with not much to really tax a home theater. The film is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 though and the dialogue, the centerpiece of the film, comes through loud and clear. There’s a bit of immersive sound here and there but not much to write home about. This mix does exactly what it needs to do.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The single disc comes in a standard amaray case with artwork I actually found to be a little flat. I don’t know what I would have done different I just wasn’t struck in any way by the art.
The bonus features are way disappointing here for such a great film. This film is begging for a director’s commentary and even a cast commentary but no dice. There’s a trailer and a brief featurette. The featurette is a 13 minute conversation between Noah Baumbach and Jennifer Jason Leigh. The conversation is pretty good with these two having strong insight into each others’ work considering they’ve been married for years. Not much here, but I’ll take what I can get.
Margot at the Wedding is a completely fulfilling experience with plenty of humor, emotional depth, and metaphor that’s smart and subtle. The film does all of this without every becoming schmaltzy and formulaic like most Hollywood films do. The only reason I’m giving the overall number that I’m giving here is because of the almost nonexistent bonus features.
Overall (Not an Average) 7.5/10
The Movie 9/10
The Video 8.5/10
The Audio 7.5/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 3/10
Overall (Not an Average) 7.5/10