Thursday, February 7, 2008

Margot at the Wedding. February 19th. (*******7/10)

Margot At The Wedding is about a woman named Margot who goes to a wedding. It comes out from Alliance Atlantis on Tuesday the 19th of February and it's sort-of worthwhile. Margot is played by Nicole Kidman, who is a very uptight, scathingly bitter-tongued ice queen. She drags her son along with her to her sister's (Jennifer Jason Leigh) wedding to unemployed musician Jack Black. The dialogue is very smart, the acting is terrific, and the family is believable. The big problem with the movie is the lack of likeable characters. Kidman gets to her sister's place, and immediately makes herself unlikeable as she attacks everything around her, questioning her sister's choice in a husband, exacerbating the war between her sister and her neighbours, and visiting the man with whom she is having an affair. Jennifer Jason Leigh has just figured out she is pregnant, but hasn't told anyone yet. She tells Kidman, who then tells her son, who then tells his cousin, who then asks her mom about it. The whole family harbours intense bitterness and hard feelings toward each other, much of which is not fully explained in the film.

A lot of scenes ring very true, especially in the little details. My favourite little detail is when Jason-Leigh's young daughter tells Jack Black he has to hide his King Crimson album. It is the In The Court Of The Crimson King album (shown below), and I have had to do the same thing myself. It was initially up on the wall with the rest of my favourite vinyl albums. Welcome To My Nightmare, The Kids Are Alright, Johnny Cash at San Quentin, Over-Nite Sensation, The Melodians Rivers of Babylon, and King Crimson. But I had to take it down, because my wall of albums is in the area downstairs where the kids play, and it really freaked out our 8-year-old. I can certainly understand why. This is just one in the many small details in Margot At the Wedding that ring so very true. Which is an indication of the intelligence of the movie. And some of these scenes are very funny, especially the Jack Black scenes. This is the kind of movie that suits him best. Where he is not the centre of attention, where he does not have to carry the comedy all on his own, but where he can add understated fat-sloppy-guy comedy to understated prim-proper-people type scenes. Think of the scene in High Fidelity where he laments the fact that the customer does not own Blonde On Blonde.

But Margot at the Wedding can only go so far on wit and intelligence and fine performances. For most movies, that should be enough. But the one adult character who is actually likeable is John Turturro, as Kidman's husband, and he shows up for about two minutes of screen time. So by the end, the movie's message is a decent one - no matter how lousy things get, or how lousy life is, you always have family to count on. But after watching the whole thing, you think "not THIS family!" These poor kids! Jennifer Jason Leigh is a space case, Nicole Kidman is a passive aggressive, unfaithful, clingy jerk of a mother, and Jack Black is a slovenly, childish, out of control deviant. (Which is funny, but not exactly laudable.) You wouldn't wish this family on anyone, and you end up feeling pretty sorry for the kids. With more Turturro, this movie could have potentially been a 9/10. As it stands, it is very smart, but tough to watch in parts. And it jsut feels like a standard, well-written, indie dark comedy with nothing new to say.

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