Margot At The Wedding

Cover Art and Menus: 6/10
The cover is simply a white background with shots of Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Jack black at various distances. Not great, but not horrible, which sadly extends to my feelings on the entire film.

The menu featured shots from the film that fade in and out, again on top of a white background. While this sounds almost identical to the cover, the shots seemed hyper crisp and detailed, and it really made a difference. I really thought the menu looked great. A strange mix to be sure, but I liked the menu better than the cover.

Features: 2/10
Margot at the Wedding was pretty devoid of extras. There is a short conversation with writer/director Noah Baumbach and Jennifer Jason Leigh in which they discuss everything from getting Nicole Kidman involved in the project to the acting and chemistry that the cast had while working on the movie. It is only about 13 minutes long, and it is a bit strange as the two are married in real life. It gives a nice short view into the making of the movie, with discussion about Jack Black, Zane Pais, and the basic experience.

As for the rest of the extras, basically that is it. There are some theatrical trailers, but I don’t really view advertisements included on a disk as an extra, so basically the DVD includes one short interview. Even in this day and age when some disks can go on for days, this might be too little.

Movie: 5/10
Margot at the Wedding is a movie by Noah Baumbach, whose film resume is unique to say the least. Baumbach was a co-writer on excellent movie The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, along with the talented Wes Anderson. Baumbach also wrote the 2005 movie The Squid and the Whale, which like The Life Aquatic was quirky and clever. Both of those past films had excellent casts that really added to the flavor of the movies by bringing the characters to life. In Margot at the Wedding, Baumbach again seems to bring his view of dysfunctional family life to the forefront of the movie, and again he has an excellent group of actors that dive deep into the characters that they play.

For me, the real problem was that while the actors and the characters were well defined, the direction and goal of the film was perhaps not. At the end of the movie, I felt like I had been shown some great characters, but that they really didn’t do much or learn anything. I am not really saying that there needed to be an “everyone gets along” moment, but I felt like I wanted something to somewhat tie things up more than what I was given.

Margot at the Wedding begins with Margot (Nicole Kidman) returning to the house that she grew up in, which is now owned by her sister Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh). The two sisters have not spoken for years, and Margot’s return is for the upcoming wedding of Pauline and Malcolm (Jack Black) who is unemployed and kind of a slacker. Margot shows up with her quiet son Claude, who is played brilliantly by Zane Pais. The happy reconciliation is shattered within minutes of Margot’s arrival as the two sisters begin verbally sniping each other over the past, as the reasons for their animosity return with full force.

The story continues to unfold as the sisters compete, with Margot alienating just about everyone in the movie at some point. The characters interplay with each other is ways that come off as awkward and realistic, which can be hard to watch. As the wedding approaches, the tension rises until the normally happy time turns into chaos.

I really thought that the acting done by Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Jason Leigh was superb. I also thought that Zane Pais was very good as the introspective, somewhat lost Claude, who was left to deal with the chaos in the house almost completely on his own. Baumbach really brought the feel of the dysfunctional family to the forefront of Margot at the Wedding, and it sometimes made it hard to watch. My only real complaint was I didn’t think Jack Black was a smart choice for the Malcolm character, because he felt overly subdued, and therefore I didn’t find much that he did to be funny. From the one extra included on the DVD, Baumbach explained that he wanted Black because of his comedic side, to bring out the humor of the film, but I just didn’t see it that way. Perhaps I just could not get past the weight of the animosity and chaos in the house, but I didn’t find much to really laugh out loud about here.

Overall Margot at the Wedding is a great vehicle for the actors involved, but the free form plot (if you can call it that) is not enough to really make this film shine. It kind of reminded me of a recent film that I reviewed where the actors did a great job, but the story just didn’t feel fleshed out; Things We Lost in the Fire. Basically I didn’t think this was a really bad movie, but it was definitely not great either. I guess I expected this to be quirky, like The Life Aquatic and The Squid and the Whale, but the charm of those two films just was not as evident here, and so I was somewhat disappointed.

Video & Audio: 6/10
The movie was shot using lots of natural lighting which really added to the flavor of this being a story about a family. There is nothing here that is hyper realistic or overly set up. That being said, the fact that it is shot in this way demonstrated some of the issues that this style can present, one of which is shots that are extremely dark and sometimes fuzzy. Often times it appears muddy and muted, but this is the way the movie is shot, and it definitely adds to the feel of the film.

The audio is pretty bland, as this is a dialogue-heavy piece. It is pretty clear for the most part, and therefore it gets the job done. There is not a lot of use of the 5.1 surround sound here, and the movie doesn’t really need it. Again, not bad.

Value: 4/10
This is not the type of film that one would watch again and again, simply because it is so free form and the subject matter is so difficult to deal with. Margot at the Wedding is first and foremost about a dysfunctional family, and everyone already has one of those. There is only one 13 minute interview included as an extra, and the disk is selling for about $20.00, which seems a bit high. The acting is for the most part really good, but I just didn’t connect with this movie so I can’t really recommend this beyond a rental.

Overall Score 5/10