Margot at the Wedding – DVD Review
by John Cavanagh on February 24, 2008
Available at Amazon.com
I suppose I should preface all of this by saying that Noah Baumbach’s previous outing, The Squid and the Whale, was one of my favorite films of 2005. To me, that film marked what was sure to be the coming of a distinct and interesting voice that indie filmmaking had been lacking for quite some time. With Margot at the Wedding, however, I might have jumped the gun a bit early.

The movie revolves around Margot and her son Claude going to her sisters wedding at the house she grew up in as a child. Making a living as a short story author, Margot has an annoying tendency of speaking her mind at inappropriate moments and imposing all of her life problems on those around her. Like any writer, she doesn’t hold back words. Yet the moment anyone points out a flaw of hers, even if unintentional, she quickly goes on the defense (usually by way of insult). Her sister, Pauline, is about to marry a struggling musician, Malcom, who spends more time writing letters to the editors of popular magazines than putting pen to paper on his own work. As would happen with most families, the time they all share together in the house starts to way on all of them, testing the limits of how long they can put up with one another.

While watching, many people will wonder why the story seems so determined to follow the cold and abhorrent Margot when the life issues of Malcom and Pauline are far more interesting. Especially with Jack Black, who giving a very honest and interesting take on a character he’s rarely tried to portray before in his prior attempts in dramatic roles. Leigh is another who is given a very unique character to play with in the movie that’s interesting to watch. But Kidman refuses to ever show the slightest bit of emotion in her character, making Margot come across as almost sociopathic. By the end of the movie, many will be wishing that Margot never decided to take the trip after all and instead just followed the long and winding road of Pauline and Malcom’s upcoming nuptials.

Films with cold, unlikeable characters aren’t a bad thing. With all of the acclaim that movies like No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood have been receiving, it’s clear that the movies still find ways of speaking to the audience. Margot is a loathsome character who constantly shows no consideration for those around her. Coming across as cold and contemptuous solely on the surface, nothing rings honest or truthful underneath. Basically meaning that the largest problem with the film is its complete lack of sincerity. The movie goes so far as but up a big blinking sign in the form of her being confronted with having similar traits of the isolated, careless, selfish main character of her latest novella. Simply imposing Margot’s actions on the main character of her latest book feels forced and even brings the entire film to a stand still; it’s a poor attempting to get around the larger issue.

Perhaps the most annoying part of the film rests solely on the shoulders of whoever edited the feature. Because it contains some of the most jarring and abrupt cuts that do nothing but draw attention to themselves the entire time. Having no musical elements to try and hide these flaws certainly didn’t help matters much. They’re not even done it any kind of experimental way that one could excuse for trying something new. No, it feels as though there simply wasn’t enough usable material available to construct a proper story. The movie plays out like a series of scene ideas, but no cohesion to make them all stick together.

It’s almost like faux-cinema vierte in its constant attempt to try and not put a noticeable plot of any kind into the narrative. Attempting to tell a naturally progressing story, but in doing so takes far too long to get the ball rolling, muddles in the second act, and then fizzles out by the finale. Which only makes the few attempts at conventional story telling all the more frustrating to understand due to them hardly ever making a lick of sense and never being done interestingly (let alone subtly). On top of that the film never feels natural, especially when the characters are constantly saying what they should be showing.

The film seems to have nothing new to say, with Baumbach recycling the mother and son characters from Whale and just putting them in new surroundings. Only with a much colder and dysfunctional dynamic, destroying what is an otherwise interesting story in the process. Margot at the Wedding almost feels like Baumbach has made an even smaller niche for himself.


The films small budget certainly shows itself in the 1.85: 1 Anamorphic Widescreen transfer on the disc. Black levels in many scenes tend to come across slightly gray in some areas. The free wielding, natural style of the movie makes it hard to judge the picture, as much of what is presented is an intended effect. Given the fact that there isn’t any music or score supporting the movie, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track isn’t entirely needed. The dialogue comes across well with no technical errors to report.


A Conversation with Noah Baumbach and Jennifer Jason Leigh (12:55) is the only major extra feature on the disc. It plays out as a very inviting conversation between the two, who are married, where they talk about their approach when working on a film and the process of filmmaking in general. Also on the DVD are two Theatrical Trailers (4:18, total) for the film, along with gallery of trailers for other Paramount features.


It’s really telling when the most entertaining thing you can remember about a DVD is a trailer for a completely different film that played before you even got to the menu. In case you can’t tell where I’m going with all of this, I really disliked Margot at the Wedding. These are superficial characters that while not without their few charms, are just not interesting to watch. Especially not for 92 excruciatingly painful minutes. It almost feels like the audience is being punished with this film.

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Paramount Vantage presents Margot at the Wedding. Directed by Noah Baumbach. Starring Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jack Black. Written by Noah Baumbach. Running time: 92 minutes. Rated R. Released on DVD: February 19, 2008. Available at Amazon.com.



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