Magazine article The Spectator

Family at War

Magazine article The Spectator

Family at War

Article excerpt

Margot at the Wedding

Nationwide, 15

Margot at the Wedding is one of those unsettling and bothersome films which will bother and unsettle you during, afterwards and possibly for much of the next day, like a flea in the ear. If this is your sort of film, then you will like it and if you don't -- if you like to put a film behind you the moment you leave the cinema, and go for chips -- then you probably won't. I'm not saying one sort of film is better than the other, just what this is, so you know.

And now you know that? Well, what you also need to know is that it is writer-director Noel Baumbach's follow-up to the Oscarnominated The Squid and the Whale, and also focuses on what is commonly referred to as a 'dysfunctional family', as if there were any other kind. The setting is a family gathering at the old childhood home by the seaside. I've no idea why films like this -- mood'n'character films; is that the genre?

-- are always set in old childhood homes by the seaside, but they are. Also, the season is indeterminate, the light is weak and the gull-calling skies are always white. If there is a functional family out there, I would like to think they are living all day and every day in full-on, glorious Technicolor and through the best summer anyone can remember Anyway, here we have Margot (Nicole Kidman), a celebrated short-story writer whose first visit to the childhood home for years comes when her sister Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh) prepares to marry Malcolm (Jack Black), a slobby manchild who wears a moustache for comic effect. 'I had a full beard for a while, and then when I shaved it I left this part for last, you know, to see how it looked. And . . . it's meant to be funny.' Margot is not amused. Margot is not impressed by Malcolm but denies he is ugly.

'He's not ugly. He is completely unattractive.' Margot brings out the worst in everybody and speaks her mind with a shocking lack of empathy. 'Have you ever noticed, ' she disingenuously asks Malcolm over dinner one night, 'how Pauline sometimes can't make eye contact?' This film could just have easily been called The Squirm and the Cringe.

Margot is accompanied by her 12-year-old son Claude (Zane Pais). Margot may be the worst mother ever (non-physically violent category). One minute she is needy, suffocating, telling Claude he can't wear underarm deodorant because it's carcinogenic, and the next she is telling him he stinks. …

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