Margot (Nicole Kidman), a well-known short story writer, and her 11-year-old son Claude (Zane Pais) take the train out of New York City to attend her sister Pauline’s (Jennifer Jason Leigh) wedding to Malcolm (Jack Black), an unemployed artist who is still finding his medium. Margot thinks Pauline can do much better and isn’t shy letting it be known. In fact, she isn’t shy about how she feels regarding most things, impulsively acting on them before taking a moment to consider the ramifications to herself and those around her.
Noah Baumbach’s Margot at the Wedding is an authentic depiction of the many facets that comprise a relationship between two siblings. Margot and Pauline share laughs and tears through past reflections and current conflicts. No one knows better the strengths and vulnerabilities of a person than a lifelong family member, so alternating between providing support and exposing flaws is an easy transition. Too easy for Margot and Pauline who love and loathe each other and themselves in near-equal amounts.
The film plays out more like a short story as the characters take precedence over the plot. As the wedding day approaches, who they really are and what is happening in their lives is slowly revealed. While they are intelligent enough to have moments of clarity and insight, you can never fully trust what anyone says because they are rarely honest with themselves, unreliable narrators to their own egos. They are not very likable people as each is nearly overwhelmed by the bad decisions made under the influence of their neuroses and self-absorption, yet the film remains intriguing to see where their choices lead them.
Margot at the Wedding covers a range of emotions handled extremely well by the talented cast. The relationships are so real and the emotions so volatile that the characters have real depth. It’s easy to forget you are watching a film and instead feel like an uninvited eavesdropper. There are also many moments of humor to deflate the tension.
While compelling, the film is certainly not for everyone. No doubt many will be frustrated by the characters’ actions, and the film ends without much resolution, but fans of great acting, believable characters, and well-crafted dialogue will be satisfied.
The DVD Special Features are as unsatisfying as the characters’ lives. Other than the trailers, there’s only a conversation between Baumbach and Leigh about the film. It’s surprising no other actors took part.