Nicole Kidman has to be one of the most disliked A-list actresses of the moment, and the most common criticism I hear from people is the claim that she’s overrated (by whom, I’m not exactly sure). The last two films I’ve seen her in, The Golden Compass and now Margot at the Wedding have contained easily her best work in years. That she’s particularly unlikeable in both roles could be saying something, but they aren’t at all similar.
Noah Baumbach’s previous feature, The Squid and the Whale, was a touching portrayal of a dysfunctional family (his forte), and one of the best films released in 2006. With Margot at the Wedding we’re in similar territory, though this time round it’s a much darker, more depressing affair. Kidman’s Margot is at times hard to watch – more than a little neurotic, she alternately smothers her son Claude (Zain Pais) with love or picks on his flaws. The two of them have come to visit her sister Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh) in the days leading up to her wedding to Malcolm (Jack Black). These two are just as real and maladjusted as any of Baumbach’s characters.
The entire cast is fantastic, and the dialogue is spot on. Jack Black shows that he can hold his own against much more experienced dramatic actors, and others like John Turturro and Ciarán Hinds excel in smaller roles.
It isn’t clear just when the film is set, but the fashions and lack of technology suggest we’re possibly in the early 80s, like The Squid and the Whale. Unfortunately the film is simply too bleak to really enjoy. Even the cinematography is drained of colour – most of the scenes horribly under lit, making for a rather ugly film.
The real-life edge of Baumbach’s films is truly something to be reckoned with, and I do enjoy a solid, depressing tale. But I have to be rooting for the main characters. At the best of times I really enjoyed Malcolm’s quirky conversation topics coupled with his insecurity, and Claude’s unwavering devotion to his mother, but watching Margot make horrid comments in such an offhand manner was just a little too much for me. I didn’t like Daniel Plainview from There Will Be Blood, but I was fascinated by his behaviour, no matter how extreme and/or horrid. With Margot at the Wedding I simply wished Margot would grow up.
A solid film that asks a little too much of its audience.Rating: