Saturday, November 24, 2007

Sister Act

Margot at The Wedding is a complicated film. It does some things exceptionally well, but I'm not sure if, at the end, the film is greater than the sum of its parts. One thing you can't argue , though, is that Nicole Kidman chews up this role and spits it out again. She plays Margot a narcissistic, bi-polar (or boderline personality disordered) writer, the sister to Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh, also superb) who is about to marry Malcolm (Jack Black who plays a lovable loser with humor and awkward dignity). The movie is not so thick on plot; it's just about the very ancient conflicts of two sisters, and what happens when Margot tries to manipulate Pauline into believing that her fiance Malcolm isn't worthy.

Joel Baumbach staked a certain claim in The Squid and the Whale--precocious, mature kids with fucked up parents. Baumach's brand of family dysfunction is emotional incest: adults who are far too dependent on their sons. You find yourself cringing as the parents reveal their messy inner lives to their vulnerable offspring, who are, after all, seeking approval themselves, because that's what kids do.

I loved Margot for its fine detail: Margot wears a nightguard to bed, to keep from grinding, for example; when have you ever seen that in a movie? The dialog is fine, and there's a lot of it. It's a talky movie. There are many lines that will stay with you. For example, when Margot is having a meltdown and her ex husband puts his sweater on her shoulder, she starts crying harder and says "I didn't realize I was cold until you gave me your sweater. . . "

I believe a good movie makes us see ourselves in a different way. But if you say, about Margot, "that's my sister" or "that's my mom" or "that's me" (as I did when she started crying at the gift of slippers saying "when you give me things I don't need I feel as though you don't know me") then you will either really love this movie, or hate it, because mirrors can be cruel teachers.

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