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Margot At The wedding – dysfunctional as dysfunctional does

call the copse - I'm stuck

call the copse - I'm stuck



Margot at The Wedding – Noah Baumbach

This is a HUIAM – a Head Up Its Ass Movie. 93 minutes of lose-the-will-to-live self-obsessed, narcissistic, articulate anal angst set in alternative universe California. This farrago of misused intelligence manages to stereotype absolutely every character, gender and emotion and then self-abuse them to exhaustion. This movie gives onanism a bad name. Public self-abuse is already culpable – without selling tickets.

Dear God – where do we start? As the film does, let’s dismiss the men quickly: Malcolm (a cringe-making Jack Black) is a triumphantly failed-at-everything inadequate infantile jerk, with OCD in the family, that Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh), writer Margot’s (Nicole Kidman) estranged sister has incomprehensibly decided to marry. A marriage made at a script conference laced with way too much Californian red wine. Margot is a WRITER recycling her dysfunctional family’s emotional mayhem as fiction. She is leaving fellow-writer husband Jim (John Torturro) for unexplained but naturally deeply emotional reasons quite incomprehensible to him – and us. Margot, Pauline and sister Becky who is mentioned not seen, have apparently been screwed up by their father – no details just innuendo and nudge-nudge know what I mean? Margot has efficiently tied in a reluctant attendance at Pauline’s surreal wedding with a book promotion interview with celebrity writer and one-night-stand lover Dick Koosman (a bemused Ciaran Hinds) who conveniently lives down the road from Pauline who lives in the family home.

There are several early teens kids on hand, all at the insufferable end of the spectrum of Hollywood adolescents. Nicole’s androgenous son Claude, mother-fixated and mummy’s-boy vulnerable; Pauline’s under-written daughter Ingrid; and sexually precocious, though how would we know in this company; Maisy, daughter of the Dick – if you know what I mean. This bunch of doomed-to-repeat-their-parents’ mistakes kids are like human labradours – likeable, loveable, and there simply to respond to their screwed up parents need to receive or express emotion.

Thus we have a bunch of emotionally obsessive adults demonstrating on screen how inter-personal dysfunctionality is passed on infallibly to the next generation. A little light relief from this literally and metaphorically incestuous bunch of co-dependent navel-gazers is provided by the family of genuinely malign Boo Radley’s (To Kill A Mockingbird) next door. These are the neighbours from hell who deposit their rubbish in Pauline’s garden to force her into cutting down a tree overlooking their property. In a risible effort to generate a sense of menace Baumbach has Margot watching the Vogler’s preparing a dead pig for a barbecue spit roast mystifyingly indoors and involving a syringe the size of a car tyre footpump. (I can hear you dear reader – “he’s making it up again” – oh that I were).

Snapshots: Claude is so close to his mom that he tells her when he masturbates. Pregnant Pauline gets caught short in the car poos her pants and of course to prove he has no hang-ups about such things, no-nonsense Noah shows us. Too much information Mr Baumbach – really, more than we needed to see. Trust us – we remember what poo looks like. And Freud’s your problem – not ours.

The rest is endless onanistic waffle. These stereotypes don’t have lives they have issues and hang-ups (oh yes please – by the neck preferably), emotions they must do work on rather than feel. For reasons no doubt due to my bad potty training (well my mate had one that played a tune – and mine didn’t. Is it any wonder I’ll only go at home?), the following parallel comes to mind: in a more-than-usually squirm-worthy edition of the Jonathon Ross show the weird Gillian McKeith (You Are What You Eat) over-shared with the bate-breathed, shamefully unwarned viewing public her twice-a-day personal poo perusals. This movie does the same with emotions. But it’s marginally less fun. And just as obsessively pointless.

Jennifer Jason Leigh is actually pretty good; and Kidman as usual – technically strong but emotionally autistic. Ever since being acted off the screen in King Kong by the gorilla, Jack Black has gone from the bad to the perverse. Never more so than here.

Waste your money if you will – but you have been warned. It is hard to imagine anything worse for Nicole Kidman than being married to Tom Cruise – but involvement in this project must have been.

(April 2008)

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