Margot at the Wedding Noah Baumbach

Margot at the Wedding Noah Baumbach

Those expecting a sparkling follow-up to The Squid and the Whale will be cruelly disappointed. Where that earlier film was a pointed critique of a certain way of life, Margot at the Wedding is a rambling reiteration of the theme that parents suck and so do literary types. Still, it’s got solid bits of observation to offset the caricatured moments.

Nicole Kidman stars as the titular Margot, an uptight writer visiting her sort-of estranged sister Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh) on the occasion of the latter’s wedding. Margot is a ball of neuroses and hypocrisies, a fact that doesn’t escape the notice of her long-suffering son Claude (Zane Pais). But there is the issue of the sisters’ tense relationship, Pauline’s oafish fiancé Malcolm (Jack Black) and Margot’s extramarital affair with a pretentious jerk (Ciaran Hinds) to concern us.

This is a bit of a mess, with no clear thesis developing and many cheap shots taken. And although Leigh effortlessly knocks it out of the park, Kidman and Black seem out of their league and too burdened with their star personas to convince. Still, Noah Baumbach makes more out of this than most other directors of his generation might and wrings disquiet and pathos out of stuff that would be easy yocks in the hands of someone less capable.

Though the characters don’t seem credible, the milieu does and Baumbach’s hostile feelings toward it are readily apparent. If it seems like an unconsidered hatchet job, it’s at least deeply felt and painfully drawn. One wishes for more but this should keep you busy until the director figures out what to do next. (Paramount Vantage)