Margot and her son Claude decide to visit her sister Pauline after she announces that she is marrying less-than-impressive Malcolm. In short order, the storm the sisters create leaves behind a mess of thrashed relationships and exposed family secrets.
A slice of family life: sisters, husbands, children, history, secrets, jealousies. Margot and her teen son, Claude, travel from Manhattan to her family's Long Island home, occupied by sister Pauline, Pauline's daughter, and Malcolm, the slacker Pauline will marry outdoors that week under a tree neighbors want removed. Backbiting marks family discussion, particularly between the sisters and in Margot's cutting remarks to Claude. Pauline tells Margot a secret that Margot promptly tells Claude. Margot dislikes Malcolm and undermines him. She also has marital problems and a lover nearby. People are cruel, inside and outside their families. Is there a refuge for Margot or for Pauline?Written by
The movie spontaneously went into pre-production the day after Nicole Kidman first read the script, because she called up Noah Baumbach and was eager to star in the film. Baumbach said he was spoiled by Kidman and getting her involved was the easiest casting he's ever done. See more »
Nicole Kidman's hair color repeatedly switches back and forth between dark brown and lighter reddish-brown. See more »
I have this theory. I think, historically, women have been held back in so many ways that when they get power like they do behind the wheel, they can't help but abuse it. It's akin to Hannah Arendt's Eichmann theory about prison guards and prisoners switching roles.
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Written by Donovan (as Donovan Leitch)
Performed by Donovan
Courtesy of Epic Records
By Arrangement with Sony BMG Music Entertainment
And Licensed Courtesy of EMI Records Ltd. See more »
Watching the neighbors through the fence...
Group of erratic, confounding and humorously twisted family members are reunited at a prospective wedding in Long Island, with the estranged Margot (Nicole Kidman) behaving as sort of the ringleader to the inner-chaos (she's not necessarily a reminder of old hurts, but she brings them up anyway, as if it's her duty). Writer-director Noah Baumbach's style is unlike anyone else's in the movies right now; as both a writer and a director, he's amazingly compatible working both sides of his talent (his dialogue is the music while his direction--and the nimble editing--provides the rhythm). Baumbach allows his characters to tease and torment each other with quiet, yet unsubtle prodding, and the free-flowing scenes play out beautifully, just like music. If there is a downside to this style, it's that Baumbach can often be too knowing, and when a line or a performance is too clever it can appear forced. Jack Black was a wonderful choice as unemployed Malcolm, the slacker-bridegroom who finds swimming pools disgusting and the thought of being famous too threatening because of the rejection involved; however, Black is allowed too much time to find the humor in his slovenly character. He's fine when he's made out to be the dupe or the target of girlfriend Jennifer Jason Leigh's frustrations, but when he tries to conform to Baumbach's image of Malcolm as an enraged clown, the affectation shows and we lose both the substance and the irony of this man (we get more than we need--and more than we already perceive to be there). Baumbach is also perhaps too brazen staging talks of a sexual nature between adults and children; this works when the subject matter is touched on by the younger people only, but Margot's relationship with her pubescent son (which Margot already accepts is too entwined) skirts uncomfortable parameters which might be more amusing if the characters on-screen laughed a little bit, too. The movie is brittle, though it has a great, wounded heart and very perceptive ears for passive-aggressive arguments and misunderstandings. This family can't get over their neuroses because they don't see themselves as neurotic--only each other, and the world. It's summed up nicely in a scene with Margot and her gift-bearing husband when she tells him, "I hate getting a present that I already have. It makes me feel like you don't really know me." **1/2 from ****
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