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Margot at the Wedding is No Squid and the Whale

Published November 16, 2007 in Movie Reviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of respective holders.
Margot at the Wedding Poster Margot at the Wedding
Noah Baumbach brought profound humor to divorce in The Squid and the Whale. One would hope to see that wit applied to a variety of subjects, such as impending weddings. Unfortunately, Margot at the Wedding is no Squid and the Whale.

Margot at the Wedding Review


Margot (Nicole Kidman) takes her son to her estranged sister (Jennifer Jason Leigh)'s wedding. She immediately starts badmouthing the fiancé (Jack Black) and rekindling affairs with neighbors and such.

For a simple premise, everything feels very random, and not in an "oh, that's the way life goes" collection of events. It's more in an "I can't think of anything that would happen so I'll just throw something in there" kind of way.

Already Margot's nosiness comes from nowhere. So we're seeing a judgmental know-it-all give advice, but where does this come from? It's not hateful unless we know that she's wrong, and there's nothing to indicate that. They throw in quirks like getting ultra-competitive in a croquet game. What's the basis for that? It never comes up again.

Chastising another family is more in character but it's irrelevant to the story. Sure, real busybodies would butt in all around the world, but that doesn't mean it's good writing. It's actually desperate to hammer in a point that the film has already failed to make. Margot randomly declares she never let anyone hold her son as a baby. Gee, thanks for sharing that bit of character backstory that would otherwise never be apparent.



Making jokes about molestation is cool. Baumbach does find a way to play that in an inspired way, of course giving Black the best line. A kid having adult ADD is clever but it doesn't actually matter to anything. Some random comedies are brilliant because all the randomness does enhance the main story, but this is just grasping at quirkiness.

Not lighting the film does not make it realistic. It just makes it cheap. In real interiors, you can see people. Cameras need light to simulate that.

Kidman plays American well. She does a dialect that sounds totally natural and immersive. There's no hint of a foreigner.

Jack Black sells the funny. His three or four moments are the only inspired bits in the film.

Jennifer Jason Leigh looks fantastic, better than ever. So at least thank you to Baumbach for showing us MILF boobs. He shows Kidman masturbating too but that's just cheap. It's not real because she's obviously only diddling herself for the sake of the camera. When they start talking about f***ability, it's over. Finishing the Game went there too. It's not funny.

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Fred Topel
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