“Margot At The Wedding,” review by Susan Granger

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Sisterhood is dissected in writer/director Noah Baumbach’s latest domestic drama

From the moment that sharp-tongued, successful short-story writer Margot (Nicole Kidman) arrives in the Hamptons from Manhattan with her reluctant 12 year-old son Claude (Zane Pais) for her free-spirited sister Pauline’s wedding, she makes it clear that – in her opinion – newly pregnant Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is marrying a loser in Malcolm (Jack Black), a whining, creepy, unemployed artist. As the ceremony approaches, one domestic complication crashes into the next, including Margot’s marital turmoil and cranky new neighbors who detest a beloved tree in the backyard.

That tree takes on a metaphysical aspect in that – in one scene – Margot is, literally, stranded atop it, needing to be rescued, and – in a later scene – Malcolm tries to chop it down with a chain-saw, achieving predictably disastrous results.

While Baumbach’s previous “The Squid and the Whale” was funny and touching because it showed acrimonious adults from the adolescent’s point-of-view, this outing has none of its neurotic charm. Instead, it’s filled with the kind of endless, petty squabbling that gives family occasions a bad name.

One’s aggressive and the other’s passive, but neither sister is even remotely interesting to watch or listen to. So it’s excruciating, at times, to have to spend 93 minutes in their company. Exquisite Nicole Kidman manages to make herself look downright dowdy in a brown wig, while usually scowling, snarling Jennifer Jason Leigh forces an occasional smile – or perhaps a twitch.

Since Baumbach utilizes primarily close-ups with a hand-held camera, showing no interest in the art of cinematography, and the pervasive mood is relentless angst. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Margot at the Wedding” is an unhappy, mind-numbing 4 – a dysfunctional family diatribe.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.