Margot at the Wedding is powerfully acted, sharply written, and extraordinary in its character development and detail. But despite all of these strengths, it will leave audiences feeling like they just paid ten bucks to swallow a cup of cold gravel.
It's possible that Margot could be an example of reverse-psychology when it comes to the traditional family movie. By immersing us in one of the cruelest, most hateful families ever to grace the silver screen—and then by holding us under those murky waters for ninety-two minutes—writer/director Noah Baumbach will make almost anyone grateful for the family they have, no matter how damaged it might be.
And it's a shame, really, because Baumbach is an immensely talented storyteller. His 1995 debut Kicking and Screaming (not to be confused with the 2005 Will Ferrell soccer-dad comedy) was an insightful, hilarious, and moving little movie about post-collegiate crisis and the hard work of moving on into a meaningful adult life. Two years ago, he returned with The Squid and the Whale, an observant and heartbreaking comedy about two boys caught in the crossfire between impossibly selfish and cruel parents.
Where The Squid and the Whale felt like a lament, an exposé of the damage that divorce can do to children, Margot at the Wedding feels almost like an act of revenge. It feels like the artist has opened up a journal where he chronicled all of the evils and ugly misdeeds committed by family members and friends. It may be true-to-life, but the effect of all of this harsh realism is a miserable moviegoing experience.
The title character, played with extraordinary complexity by Nicole Kidman, is a successful novelist who is absolutely insufferable in real life. Her books ...1