Those of you who are familiar with Noah Baumbach’s work (The Squid and the Whale, Kicking and Screaming) should not be too surprised with what they get from this one. This is a classic case study of a narcissistic, pessimistic, “witch” Margot (Nichole Kidman) and her effects on everyone that she is around. (caution: spoilers after the jump) The movie opens with Margot and her son Claude’s arrival to her parents house, now lived in by her sister Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and fiance Malcolm (Jack Black), in preparation for Pauline’s wedding. From the get go, you can sense the whirl winds are coming, with the snide remarks that fly from Margot’s mouth. Margot is clearly unhappy with her own life and the choices that she has made, so the only way that she exists is to belittle those that are closest to her. When she is not tearing into her sister about her choice in a husband, she is chiding her son for being less than perfect, or berating her current husband for “not getting her”. Margot being an author, she also uses her books as a vessel to further her displeasure with everyone around her. You soon figure out that Margot is a tornado that will destroy anything in her path, and that is truly what this movie is about.
Two key scenes come to mind when you come to understand her tyranny. First is the scene where Margot is giving a lecture about one of her books, in which her lecture partner Dick (Ciaran Hinds) brings to light the similarity between a character in the book, and Margot. This is the first scene in which you really see Margot for what she is, and her reaction really shows you to what length she is miserable. The second takes place in the diner towards the end of the movie. In this scene Margot shows her true colors showing more concern with her control over her sisters life than she is with her sisters happiness. You really need to watch the movie to totally understand the dynamic that is played out in this scene, as Margot stands in the entrance to the diner and yells at Pauline about kicking Malcolm out of the house, as Pauline walks away from her happy to have Malcolm back. You really get a feeling that Margot will go to great lengths to assert her control over Pauline. These characters, flaws and all, are what make this movie so great. I loved this movie from start to finish. Nichole Kidman’s portrayal of Margot as a despicable human being was spot on, and every character in the movie has a place and is well thought through. I found myself analyzing it for days, and that to me is the sign of a great movie. Go into this movie with an open mind and acute analytical skills and you should enjoy it.
Score – 9 out of 10