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.
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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
Several outlets claimed that the character of Claude was an autobiographical figure of director Noah Baumbach. However, he denies this, and claims he identifies more with Margot, and had a lot of empathy for her. See more »
Nicole Kidman's hair color repeatedly switches back and forth between dark brown and lighter reddish-brown. See more »
You didn't notice anything different about Pauline?
She's pregnant. She told me. She's keeping it a secret from Malcolm and even Ingrid, which I think is unforgivable. Now she's gonna have to marry him. What's she planning on doing, getting married and not drinking champagne? Then she's just gonna be lying. I guess she's afraid she'll miscarry. She probably will. I think on some level, she's ambivalent about the marriage. That's why she's not telling him.
Are you stoned, Mom?
Maybe a little...
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A Film for Grinding your Teeth and Scratching your Head
Noah Baumbach creates strange films, movies that are low budget in appearance (except for the sterling casts he assembles), dicey stories about dysfunctional people (and there is obviously a mirror here for seeing our own dysfunctional traits), moods that suggest the films of Ingmar Bergman shot with camera work that blurs the line of reality and fantasy, and in the end films that initiate discussion (both arguing for and against the quality of time the viewers have just spent). His are message films and while they may not entertain the mass number of filmgoers, they are an important aspect of the new American cinema.
Novelist Margot (Nicole Kidman) and her son Claude (Zane Pais, in an impressive film debut) are traveling to Margot's semi-estranged sister's wedding: hippie Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is marrying the bizarre artist wannabe Malcolm (Jack Black) in the backyard of the girl's old home somewhere in New England. The sisters have a rocky relationship, strained by family secrets that include a distant mother and strange sister and a possibly pedophilia father, and strained by Margot's success as a writer (though she has failed in her marriage to the nebulous Jim - John Turturro - and is having an affair with another writer Dick - Ciarán Hinds - whose Harvard daughter Maisy - Halley Feiffer - is an oversexed thorn in the family's eyes), and strained by Pauline's lack of direction away from her past as a 'woman of loose morals' to the discovery that she is pregnant by the loser Malcolm. The entire story takes place on the weekend of Pauline's planned wedding and everything that could possibly go wrong does. Each of the sister's idiosyncrasies and maladjustments to life come into play and the only characters who seem to be able to make sense of any of the behavior abnormalities are the sisters' children - Claude and Pauline's daughter Ingrid (Flora Cross). If there is a focal point that rises out of all this dysfunctional behavior it is the manner in which Margot and Claude are bonded as mother and son - not a perfect balance of roles but one of great tenderness and intention.
Yes, there are some strangely comic aspects to this story, dark though they may be, but the overall impression is one of trying to understand why each of these strange characters has chosen their paths in life - and that opens the forum for viewer introspection and excellent post-viewing conversation. Much of the success of this little film is due to the fine performances by Kidman, Leigh, Pais, Turturro, Hinds, and Black. It is a very strong cast able to accompany us on this often confusing journey. Grady Harp
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