Monday, February 18, 2008

DVD Review: Margot at the Wedding

Starring: Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jack Black
Director: Noah Baumbach
DVD Release date: February 19, 2008
MPAA Rating: R
Distributor: Paramount Home Video

When I was younger a friend of mine had his birthday party over a weekend at his parents’ house. A bunch of us spent the night watching movies, playing video games, and eating pizza — standard fare for the time and not unlike any other time we had done the same thing. But this one particular time we were all hanging out watching a movie and his parents got into some kind of argument in the next room. We all tried to ignore it by turning up the TV but no one was even paying attention to that anymore. My friend was understandably embarrassed which, in turn made us all a little uneasy, but through the whole event, no one ever really stopped listening to see what was going on. Watching Margot at the Wedding gave me that same feeling of uneasiness.

Margot (Nicole Kidman) sets out to visit her sister Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who announced that she’s marrying her boyfriend Malcolm (Jack Black). The sisters are not on speaking terms. The reason for this is never said aloud but as the story unfolds you begin to get an inclination as to why.

Margot is like a bull in a china shop. She’s a typhoon that leaves a mess in her wake that isn’t easily avoided. She just blurts out whatever is in her head, regardless of its timing or audience. She doesn’t seem to possess the filter everyone else has that stops them from saying inappropriate things as they come to mind. It’s as if she doesn’t see the sense in wasting the energy to censor herself. To make matters worse (for everyone around her, anyway), she feels justified in saying whatever she wants about everything she wants. Basically she just doesn’t get it. She doesn’t get that certain things that are better left unsaid, even if everyone is thinking it. She is the type of person that forces her opinion on everyone — welcomed or not — and expresses anger when it is not met with a thankful ear.

We’ve all known someone like Margot in our lives and more times than not they have made us angry when they are on one of their rants. But like they say, bad press is still press. I think she honestly believes the things she says but at the same time, she acts the way she does to garner the attention. Her intentions may be good but the execution leaves a lot to be desired.
Margot may be considered a monster by her family and everyone in her path, but that doesn’t make her character any less watchable. The performances in the movie really make the film as good as it is. The story itself is a little off-kilter but there is realism in the dysfunctional way this family interacts. Pauline seems just as crazy as Margot if not a bit more introverted. Jason Leigh plays her with modest restraint and the movie is better for it. Her laid back lifestyle isn’t equipped to handle Margot’s abrasive nature. Pauline’s fiancĂ© Malcolm is a rather earthy, hippy of a character but seems to exist for the sole purpose of being a catalyst for igniting Margot’s rage.

Ultimately the movie really is less about the likability of these characters than the voyeuristic nature by which they are observed. Just like how we all slow down at an accident on the side of the road to see what happened, we don’t necessarily like what we are seeing the whole time, but we can’t look away in the off chance that we are going to see some sort of carnage. Of all the characters in the movie, I feel the most sorry for the kids. They have little say in what is going on around them and are just forced to deal with it. In their innocence, it seems normal for them because it seems like that is all they have really known. I suppose the upside of that is if they have friends over for a birthday party one day, they’ll find it easier to ignore than I did when everything goes to crazy in the next room.

And there’s the rub.

** 1/2 out of ****

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