Crossing off Margot at the Wedding. Oh . . . and my local indie video store had the Korean Secret Sunshine DVD, but I couldn't get the audio to work. I'm pissed, but what are you gonna do?
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
There Will Be Blood
Lars and the Real Girl
Gone Baby Gone
Starting Out in the Evening
I'm Not There
4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days
On to the main event: how is Margot at the Wedding? First off, Nicole Kidman is fantastic. It's easy to forget how good she can be when you're watching year after year of her in crappy remakes and bizarre missteps, but she really creates a great character here. Margot is bitchy, manipulative, neurotic yet completely self-deluded, indecisive, damaged, and self involved. At this time of year, it's refreshing to see an actress play a fictional human being rather than a used up singer with a receding hair line or . . . a used up male singer in a world of black and white. Kidman manages to retain watchability in every scene, even when her character's actions cause you to cringe. In the last scene, when her sister's words about her are proven true, the look of triumph on her face doesn't ring true, but it's not supposed to. Margot is still self deluded, and Baumbach allows the film to end with the audience keenly aware of it.
As for the rest of the film, it is not on as consistent a level of film making as The Kite Runner, but I'd be lying if I said I enjoyed this less. Whereas The Kite Runner operated at a constant level of 'good', Margot at the Wedding takes more risks and, at the very least, goes into very uncomfortable places. Because of this, all the great moments of the film (Margot climbs a tree, the croquet game)are coupled with elements that, for whatever reason, don't seem to quite fit (the redneck neighbors, the babysitter).
Jack Black . . . I get what he was going for and understand why he was cast. I do (Baumbach wanted a Sandler/Ferrell type of performance), but I just don't think he was up for it 100%. There were too many scenes near the end of the film in which I was just not sure whether I was supposed to find his misery funny. I wasn't alone. My theater was full of nervous titters during these scenes, as if most people couldn't figure it out either. I don't know if this was due to Black's performance, the screenplay, or both. Jennifer Jason Leigh was Jennifer Jason Leigh, meaning she was good. She delivered a fine performance, and I was not at all surprised by this. It's Jennifer Jason Leigh so I expect as much.
One other quibble: What's with the shaky cam? Is this an action movie? I kept expecting to see Jason Bourne jump out of the ocean and punch Nicole Kidman in the throat. I'll give you the last few scenes (it seemed to suit those a bit better), but what was the point?
So, did I enjoy the movie? Yes and no. Part of it may have been that the relationship between Margot and her son IS my mom and my brother, and the character of Margot's son IS my brother 3 years ago. Dreams of becoming a singer, semi-depressed, odd, spotty hygiene practices . . . that IS him at that age. He even has the exact same hair style my brother has today. It's only a matter of time before the kid is playing in bars with a bunch of recovering alcoholics, wearing a leather headband, and arguing with Margot about his lifestyle. I mean, the characters were more . . . New England than my family, but it still hit close to home. So . . . no, I wouldn't call it enjoyable to watch people screw with each other for 90 minutes, but I would call it interesting. THANK YOU Noah Baumbach for telling a linear story that goes from point A to point B without starting in the middle of the story and having Jennifer Jason Leigh REMEMBER the entire plot while staring out of a window or something.
Overall, Margot at the Wedding is a film that is either working well or not really at all. At times, it can feel like Baumbach is just interested in complaining about what a shit childhood he had (I mean, he must have), but he doesn't have so much contempt for Margot that he robs her of anything compelling to say or do. You get the impression that, if given the chance, he would never choose to spend time with these people in real life, but he can't really escape them either. They're part of him, whether he likes it or not.