Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Climbing Up A Falling Tree

The more I think about Margot at the Wedding the less I like it, and the less I think it has anything remotely useful to say. The Squid and the Whale seemed tart and astute, if a little single-minded in its bitterness, but Noah Baumbach's psychological schemas don't seem to have advanced- they still seem too cold in his judgments of these white middle-class, middle-aged troubled family members. As with Squid, though, the cast proves enormously helpful in drawing out different shadings of Baumbach's dry observations- Jack Black gives a sense of painful inadequacy to his sad-sack failure, while Jennifer Jason Leigh and Nicole Kidman seem surprisingly worn and lived-in as estranged sisters, applying a more pained, delicate approach to their duet than the sharp brittleness of the script asks for. But, while there are some amusing witticisms and sly moments of authentic awkwardness from the cast, Margot at the Wedding seems to go nowhere and take a painfully long while getting there, which seems all the more astonishing when you discover it's not enough an hour and a half long. Baumbach isn't interested, really, in any possible nicities of character- when Black's character is apologising he's turned into a farcical histrionic- which would be perfectly acceptable if he didn't ultimately ask us to try and care about them- but he does. As a well-acted, vicious and bitter portrayal of fucked-up, cruel and damaged people, Margot at the Wedding is all well and good, but nothing is offered up beyond their bickering arguments and a last-ditch attempt to provoke feeling, and you look back with almost the same bitterness that Jennifer Jason Leigh finally cracks and snarls at Nicole Kidman- you want to yell and scream and call it on everything that you didn't like but put up with because you thought it deserved the chance. C

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