Nicole Kidman is Margot, a tightly wound author and dubiously maternal mother who breaks the silence with her sister Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to attend her wedding, in Noah Baumbach’s savagely funny satire Margot at the Wedding (2007).
Nicole Kidman plays brittle and chilly beautifully, but her self-involved and judgmental Margo is something else altogether. She’s hard to like but endlessly fascinating as she hides her vulnerability by bluntly blurting out every stray critical thought like a Tourettic reflex. She hasn’t spoken to Pauline since turning her private intimate conversation into a very public short story full of unkind judgments. Kidman doesn’t shy away from Margot’s hard corners and there’s something painfully vulnerable in the way she shifts her own feelings of shame or guilt into attacks upon whoever is within earshot.
Pauline has her own self-esteem issues, as her upcoming marriage to chronically depressed and eternally unemployed Malcolm (Jack Black) suggests. Yet as played by Leigh, she’s the introspective, stable one, trying to face her messy childhood. For Margot, it’s all just fodder for her fiction, kept at arm’s length like it is somebody else’s story.
Shooting with a handheld camera that stays just slightly aloof from the uneasy atmosphere, Baumbach creates vivid and nuanced sense of family dynamics, at once relaxed and tense, familiar and painfully funny. While Margot’s casual cruelty and the scenes of squirmy discomfort are not always easy to take, the bad behavior of this disastrous family reunion is seriously, savagely droll. It’s a great way to deal with a subject so painful.
The DVD includes the interview featurette “A Conversation with Noah Baumbach and Jennifer Jason Leigh.”