MARGOT AT THE WEDDING A film review by Steve Rhodes Copyright 2007 Steve Rhodes
RATING (0 TO ****): *
Rarely does a new director make such a rapid descent, going from mesmerizing to excruciating in the span of just two films. MARGOT AT THE WEDDING, the second feature film written and directed by Noah Baumbach (THE SQUID AND THE WHALE), features non-stop squabbling from a bunch of pretentious characters who never grow up and never change. Spending time with these uninteresting motormouths is nothing less than a massive waste of the entire audience's time.
In most narratives, the characters have arcs, and it is in following the character's developments that we get our reward. But in MARGOT AT THE WEDDING, we are forced to hang out with a large, dysfunctional family whose problems sound relatively trivial and who never change. The characters are a bit weird -- Margot (Nicole Kidman) doesn't want her smelly teenage son to use underarm deodorant since it causes cancer -- without ever being strange enough to be funny or particularly unusual or memorable.
Supposedly a dark comedy, it wasn't able to make me laugh even once. Our audience, however, had a stronger reaction to the film that I did, since we had many walkouts, and the loud and oft-heard refrain after the movie ended was "Terrible!"
Watching the film is like listening to most rap music. There is a loud consistent beat but no dynamic range and little of substance to say. Rarely have so many characters said so much and yet said so little of substance. Joining Kidman in the cast are Jennifer Jason Leigh, as Margot's sister Pauline, and Jack Black, as Pauline's fiancÚ Malcolm. Kidman brings little to her role, and, although Leigh and Black try harder, they are never able to break through the confines of a poorly written script. Actually, the movie feels completely unscripted, playing more like a failed experiment in ad-libbed dialog during a preproduction rehearsal for the motion picture.
And, speaking of the production, the quality is about on par with what you might get from a home movie produced with an inexpensive camcorder and without proper lighting or any extra lighting at all. The result is a film as ugly to look at as it is to listen to. The colors are all washed out, and the images are singularly unimaginative and bland.
This talkfest is set at a beach house where the family is gathering for Pauline and Malcolm's wedding. A bunch of petty complainers, they tell us everything wrong with their miserable lives -- not that you'll ever care. I suspect that you, like me, will be hoping for a hurricane or other natural disaster to put them -- and you -- out of their misery.
MARGOT AT THE WEDDING runs 1:32 but feels more like three hours. It is rated R for "sexual content and language" and would be acceptable for teenagers.
The film opens nationwide in the United States on Friday, December 7, 2007. In the Silicon Valley, it will be showing at the AMC theaters, the Century theaters and the Camera Cinemas.
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