Noah Baumbach has proven himself as a master dramatist in The Squid and the Whale. In his new film, Margot At The Wedding, he has written and directed a highly spirited and funny human comedy that explores a ridiculous sibling relationship.
Margot (Nicole Kidman), a bright, highly strung and opinionated novelist who creates chaos where ever she goes, sets off from New York on a surprise journey, along with her young but ever-maturing sensitive son Claude (Zane Pais), to attend her sister Pauline's (Jennifer Jason Leigh) wedding in New England. The visit to her family home with her defensive sister turns out to be both disastrous and funny when Margot meets Pauline's fiance, Malcolm (Jack Black). Malcolm is an unemployed artist and senses that Margot does not think he is good enough for Pauline. Malcolm tries to impress Margot, but she sees him as a loser. Ultimately, he does not impress Margot at all. Margot's ability to unconsciously cause problems wherever she goes sets off a series of events that hilariously affects everyone she comes in contact with.
Part of the universal nature of this film is to tap into the familiar feeling of family reunion verging closer to calamity, one small wreck at a time. The characters are all going through transitions that are scary and new: Claude is going through puberty, Margot is leaving her husband and having an affair, Pauline and Malcolm are getting married, all of which provide ample opportunities for a cast of actors capable of nuanced performances.
Nicole Kidman's brilliant portrayal of a destructive yet fragile and sympathetic woman is the heart of the film. Although she is critical of people, she finds tremendous fault in herself as well. Meanwhile, Jennifer Jason Leigh, real life wife of director and screenwriter Baumbach, approaches her character with a great sense of timing, playing off of Kidman and Black's comedic performances. Leigh's character is one that latches on the need to smooth things over with her sister, even as Margot meddles in her imminent marriage. The relationship between the two sisters is a close one that is complicated and destructive. But this is the only way they know how to love each other and the only way they can display it. Kidman and Leigh share a great chemistry on the screen that is completely honest and amusing.