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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Ashlie Atkinson
Jack Black
Flora Cross
Halley Feiffer
Ciaran Hinds
Nicole Kidman
Jennifer Jason Leigh
Zane Pias.
Directors
Noah Baumbach.
Screenwriters
Noah Baumbach.
Running Time
93 minutes

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Margot At The Wedding
Meet the guest from hell - Nicole Kidman?


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Plot
Moderately successful novelist Margot Zeller (Kidman) has taken her son Claude (Pais) to sister Pauline’s (Leigh), who’s about to marry drifting artist Malcolm (Black). While relations appear cordial, it becomes clear, as the wedding looms, that Margot’s prime talent is for upsetting people.


Review
Margot At The Wedding
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Noah Baumbach’s follow-up to 2005’s critically acclaimed The Squid And The Whale sees the writer-director return to the themes of fractured family relationships, emotional frigidity and barely concealed jealousies that he previously addressed to such painful - and often painfully funny - effect. So, three years on, it is with some anticipation that we approach Margot At The Wedding - and yet The Squid And The Whale remains the more mature, rounded piece.

There is still much to admire in Baumbach’s film. As he proved with Squid, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter enjoys an arch appreciation of human weakness, positively revelling in his characters’ shabbier instincts. Placing them in relentlessly uncomfortable contexts - and what better setting for potential disaster than a family wedding? - he again delivers the perfect, pithy dialogue which so impressed in the past.

In novelist Margot (a perfectly cast Nicole Kidman), Baumbach has created a magnificently icy, manipulative protagonist (or more accurately, antagonist): a woman so self-centred and apparently unfeeling that she can leave no relationship unspoilt. She successfully snipes at her younger, flighty sister Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh as the title’s bride), casually flirts with men she barely has an interest in, and even exploits the anxieties of her devoted young son (an exceptional debut from Zane Pais). Within this troubled family, resentments, far from being buried, are set at a constant simmer, and the wild, windswept backdrop serves to accentuate the characters’ increasing isolation.

Margot is an interesting character - her motivations remain intriguingly oblique - the talented supporting cast are impressive and the will-they-won’t-they-wed plot, although nothing new, offers Baumbach a wealth of opportunities to pick at their collective wounds. So why the reservations? Simply that where Squid balanced its characters’ less appealing traits with humour and empathy, here there is very little to like in any of the central roles - with the exception of Pais’ nuanced, quietly heartbreaking Claude.

The result is a rather hollow affair, the film’s keynotes confusion and inevitable disappointment, making for a draining experience. There is no doubting Baumbach’s craft and talent, yet equally it is impossible to escape the fact that at times this is a film to be endured, rather than enjoyed.


Verdict
A sharply observed but bleak examination of family dysfunction, anchored by solid performances.


Reviewed by Liz Beardsworth

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Margot At The Wedding
Empire Star Rating

Some people don't get this movie

Michael Phillips did from the Chicago tribune and so did Luke Goodsell from empire And some who write in on the IMDB. I understood it, a great feel-bad comedy that makes me feel good on the inside, well done! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by monkeyhumour at 02:57, 17 July 2010 | Report This Post


Margot At The Wedding

Thought all the performances were good (Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jack Black in particular), its just a shame the script doesn't amount to much, too many plotlines just end up going nowhere (the neighbours, Margots husband, and her relationship with Dick).   I think Baumbach really needs to find a different scene to explore outside the NYC literary circle in future. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Indio at 17:14, 09 November 2008 | Report This Post


Dull

I thought Squid was overrated but this is plain bad. You know everything you need to know in the first scene where the son screams in frustration on the train. Margot is a bitch and kids end up as weird as their parents. There, I just saved you 90 mins of glum family squabbling. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Caster at 13:08, 23 August 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Hmmm

Loved 'The Squid and the Whale' so was looking forward to this one.  Thought is was good, much darker than the previous film, quite a layer of nastiness running through it which made it a bit of an endurance test for me but overall a very well made film.  Definitely worth watching.  ... More

Posted by mackey at 20:29, 07 March 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Hmmm

From the writer/director of id and the Whaleroughly enjoyable film. Margot is also about fragmenting, dysfunctional families, but is a whole lot nastier and a lot less enjoyable. It start Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Jason Leigh as two thirtysomething sisters. Leigh is marrying an unemployed manic depressive deadbeat (a subdued and thus enjoyable Jack Black) while Kidman is a New York writer about to divorce her husband and resentful of her pubescent, somewhat androgynous son. It's funny an... More

Posted by Lightfoot at 08:59, 05 March 2008 | Report This Post


Hmmm

This is a strange one, indeed. Parts of it are quite funny and the characters are sketched well but it's a film that's almost impossible to warm to. Obviously most of the attention is focussed on Nicole Kidman, playing an absolute monster. She plays her well and it's a part that totally suits Kidman's icy demeanour. I was more taken with Jennifer Jason Leigh as her sister, a warmer, more elemental but just as fucked-up version of the same person. Jack Black is, well, Jack Black. The film has a v... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by RJNeb2 at 20:16, 03 March 2008 | Report This Post


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