Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Margot at the Wedding

I saw Margot at the Wedding at the late show on a Saturday night. There were three of us in the theatre. Two older people sat in the back of the room. I heard them muttering off and on during the film. When it was over and we were leaving, the male says to me: “Did you like that?” I respond that I happen to enjoy films about neurotics and dysfunctional types. “My wife said that was a comedy but I just didn’t get it I guess. That was terrible!”

Some things to know and think about before seeing Margot at the Wedding that may have helped the husband and wife: the film was written by Noah Baumbach, the same Baumbach who wrote/directed the highly dysfunctional family tale The Squid and the Whale. Baumbach can write some of the most acerbic, cutting dialogue in film and loves to really flaunt family trauma, family relationships and how they are flawed and messed up. Baumbach can’t get enough of messed up families based on these two recent films of his so if you aren’t into those kinds of things…you should possibly avoid Margot at the Wedding.

Me, on the other hand, I like watching people like this. Maybe I relate to them? The dysfunctional rings true to me, not the “Disneyfied” families of the Tim Allen (etc etc, Allen’s name just popped into my head) vehicle. I’ll take my family dramas with some bite to them and Baumbach can deliver plenty of that.

Not that I’d like to go hang out with these screwed up, self-absorbed group of people who get together for a wedding and attempt to repair old family wounds. The wounds are sutured and then torn open in new ways repeatedly. It’s not a pretty sight. Words are said, words are screamed, tears fall, hugs occur, more harsh words, tears and names called, the new bruises may last a long time.

The absolute best thing about Margot at the Wedding is the reemergence of one of my all-time favorites: Jennifer Jason Leigh. She’s at a weird age for an actress in Hollywood (45) when the roles dry up and a lot of women drift away into TV obscurity or plastic surgery nightmares (Meg Ryan anyone?). Leigh has done a lucky thing career wise: married a writer/director (in this case Noah Baumbach) who can put her in a key role in his film. Leigh is just wonderful in this. She’s vulnerable and strong and smart and mean and fearless (Leigh is always fearless, that’s her trademark).

The not so great thing about the cast is Jack Black. I just felt he was miscast in this. The more I see him in dramas the more I see how limited he is as an actor. Comedies—love him; serious films—not so much. He can’t really grow a mustache either but as its said in the film about the ‘stache—it’s meant to be funny.

Margot at the Wedding is a bleak family drama (not as comedic as the trailer makes it seem) with a lot of messy family stuff stirred up. It’s got very smart dialogue, good acting (mostly) and might make you cringe or chuckle. It will leave you relieved you don’t have a family this screwed up or thinking how alike you might be. What it is no matter your stance on any of that: an intelligent film that looks unflinchingly at one family’s relationship with another and just how awful the people close to you treat you. If that sounds like your cup of tea, it’s recommended.

1 comment:

Replicant said...

Quote from Leigh on age: I don't think your career is over when you turn 40, but it doesn't help when people's ages are constantly written about. I think the more you demystify someone, the harder it is to believe they are someone else.

Sorry I brought it up.