Sisterhood is dissected in writer/director Noah Baumbachs 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 Paulines 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 Margots 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 Baumbachs previous The Squid and the Whale was funny and touching because it showed acrimonious adults from the adolescents point-of-view, this outing has none of its neurotic charm. Instead, its filled with the kind of endless, petty squabbling that gives family occasions a bad name.
Ones aggressive and the others passive, but neither sister is even remotely interesting to watch or listen to. So its 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.