As the title suggests, the story revolves around a wedding, and it isn't a celebration with any remote resemblance to Kate and William's recent royal fete. Of course, weddings are typically fraught with some tension and stress. The couple often and reasonably fears that friends and relatives won't mix well and may exhibit less than charming behavior. Long-held grudges and the pressures of life-changing decisions can trump common sense and supportive communication. And so it comes as no great surprise that Margot and her sister Pauline will pull skeletons from the closet and lay bare repressed conflicts.
And insightful and confrontational writer/director, throughout Margot at the Wedding, Noah Baumbach goes for the jugular as sisters Margot and Pauline reunite on the occasion of Pauline's imminent wedding to ne'er-do-well Malcolm. Margot may be a successful writer living in New York, but she has plenty of her own personal problems as her volatile, often insensitive interaction with Pauline, Malcolm and others repeatedly shows. For her part, Pauline will provide her own array of insecurities and problems.
The film gets off to a quick start as Margot arrives at the lovely seaside family house where Pauline and Malcolm live. The immediate, palpable tension confirms that a great deal of baggage accompanies this momentous, and often quite funny, reunion for the siblings who have not spoken to each other for years. To further complicate the already multi-layered encounters, Margot has her son Claude with her. His unusual dealings with Pauline's daughter Ingrid provide another opportunity for alternately painful and humorous disclosures, as do several more supporting characters' actions. Over several days, the roller coaster ride through relationship troubles offers laughs and groans with confrontations as complicated as they are intriguing. We may well recognize people we know or have known and, if we're honest, a measure of ourselves and our own struggles.
As Margot, Nicole Kidman does a superb job, matched by Jennifer Jason Leigh as Pauline. Oil and water, they're a fascinating pair to watch in charged exchanges. Jack Black as Malcolm epitomizes the slacker who complements and defuses Pauline's neuroses. John Turturro, who plays Margot's husband Jim, appears only briefly but adds another fascinating personality and way of coping. Baumbach has shown a knack for burrowing into family and personal dynamics with The Squid and the Whale and Greenberg. His work consistently and courageously shows the pain, the vulnerability and the hard-won, albeit perhaps temporary and only partial, successes of his characters.
The screening of Margot at the Wedding is at Webster University's Winifred Moore auditorium on Thursday, May 5th at 7:30 p.m. with analysis immediately after the film by Michael Deal, MA, LPC. For more information and the current schedule, you may call 314-968-7487 or you may go to the web at: www.Webster.edu/film series.