Margot at the Wedding is Noah Baumbauch’s scathingly funny and honest follow up to his critically claimed 2005 film The Squid and the Whale. Both films depict family life with witty, tough and honest dialogue, and both films are quite good, but The Squid and the Whale seemed a bit more poignant and real. Even so, Margot at the Wedding is a great little film, and it’s easy to see that if you can get by the characters that are not the most likeable.
Nicole Kidman is Margot, a writer from New York City, who must return to her childhood home for her sister Pauline’s (Jennifer Jason Lee) wedding. She and her son, Claude (Zane Pais), decide to go on the trip despite the fact that Margot and Pauline have not been on good terms for a while. When they arrive, they meet Pauline’s fiancé, Malcolm, an unimpressive bum who is either a painter or a musician. We aren’t sure, and it is clear that Malcolm isn’t even sure.
Margot and Pauline become reacquainted, discuss their past problems and even settle some new feuds. Margot has always been a domineering personality over Pauline, causing a lot of tension between the two sisters. Pauline feels that Margot never understands, appreciates or accepts anything that Pauline does, and it is made clear when Margot attempts to stray Pauline away from Malcolm.
Most won’t like Margot at the Wedding, because Margot is indeed a very unlikeable character. She is brutally honest with Pauline, and even her son Claude, causing conflict in the house. What Kidman does, however, is bring a certain level of humanity to the roll of Margot. Margot knows that she is a flawed person, and accepts it on her own terms. This is Kidman’s best performance since her Oscar win for The Hours.
Though this is a film for Kidman to shine, the rest of the cast is great, too. Jennifer Jason Lee is always an enjoyable actress to watch, and can easily be listed as one of the most underrated actresses of her time. Jack Black may seem out of place in this film at first, but he really molds his performance to fit the character of Malcolm. Then there is Zane Pais, who portrays Margot’s son Claude. Claude is one of the oddest children in recent film history. Despite that, he plays a major role in the film. When every is getting sick and tired of Margot and her antics, Claude understands her, and shows his love for his mother.
Margot at the Wedding is just a bit under The Squid and the Whale, but it’s still a very strong film.