When evaluating Noah Baumbach's Margot At The Wedding, at least one must make this observation: he's sure not concerned about making a hit. After the relative success of The Squid and the Whale, Baumbach could very well have moved a little closer to the mainstream with his follow-up. Instead, Margot At The Wedding is even more uncompromising. There is no obvious plot to speak of. The most likeable character is, at best, not a spoiled, arrogant, egotistical bitch. This is a film with a target audience of about three people. Fortunately for me, I am one of those three people.
Here are review excerpts (courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes) from some of the people who are not one of the three people mentioned above:
"Humourless (though supposedly a comedy) and pretentious, almost a parody of the self-indulgent Sundance festival film, right down to the washed-out colours, droning dialogue and the title in big sans-serif capitals."
"Dramatically and visually, there's no relief to be had in this self-indulgent downer. "
"With few laughs and much whining, Margot takes the fun out of dysfunctional. It’s a damp squib with lots of wail."
"...the characters are so loathsome that you long for a hurricane to sweep away this wedding party."
"This largely po-faced comedy drama has an annoying, self-congratulatory tone. "
I suppose all of these reviewers are correct. You would be perfectly justified in not liking this movie. I would not argue too long. But I enjoyed it. I laughed, I squirmed, I basked in the Schadenfreude. Baumbach is like the new Woody Allen. Maybe not all of his movies are great but even his lesser ones are still interesting (although I've only seen two of his movies so maybe I shouldn't talk yet). I am entertained by neurotic East Coast intellectuals and their family foibles.
Also, Margot at the Wedding just goes to show how different the tastes of Hollywood actors are from the tastes of their fans. It doesn't appear that Nicole Kidman (Margot), at this stage, is much concerned with protecting her vanity. Her character masturbates, vomits, and literally finds herself stuck up a tree. See what a divorce from Tom Cruise can do for your art? Jack Black also does, I think, a more-than-decent job as the slovenly and unrefined fiance of Margot's sister Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh). As far as I'm concerned he's a better dramatic actor than a lot of actors who supposedly specialize in dramatic acting. Given the right parts he could possibly hang with the best of them.
In sum, I wouldn't recommend viewing Margot At The Wedding unless you happened to be...me.
"Film critic" rating: **1/2
"Little Earl" rating: ***1/2