Margot at the Wedding
R
Entertainment: -1/2
Acceptability: -4

Nicole Kidman, Jack Black, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and John Turturro. Comedy. Written & directed by Noah Baumbach.

FILM SYNOPSIS: Writer/director Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Kicking and Screaming) paints a picture of a dysfunctional family in distress. The film concerns a bitter, neurotic woman attending the marriage of her put-upon, emotionally stinted sister at their privileged family home by the sea. While there we get to know the eccentric, self-absorbed bunch and realize that the lead is corruptive to the point of mental derangement. She cant even compliment her own preteen child without including some searing commentary about his abilities or posture. Shes either completely obtuse to her own cruel behavior or she secretly delights in bringing depression to others. Either way, shes a mental monster.

PREVIEW REVIEW: One thing the frontrunners for Oscar consideration have in common is the dark side of mankind. Even before the nominees have been announced I can tell you which ones will gain the Academys attention: Before the Devil Knows Youre Dead, No Country for Old Men, In the Valley of Elah, and The Assassination of Jesse James Each is so well made, they will be impossible to ignore come awards season. I suppose Margot and her group will receive the same attention. While the critic elites look upon this type of storytelling as complex, even nuanced, the moral ambiguity and prickly ways of the main characters left me cold. Ive known such people, and what Ive learned, is to steer clear of them.

Dysfunctional family drama has been with us every since the Bard told of Hamlet and his brood. Margot at the Wedding may be the best example of this genre, a disparaging look at a group so in harmony with morose behavior as to cause depression in the viewer. I love it when films stir emotions. Depression, however, is not one of them.

When viewing people with foibles, its nice to see some vulnerable side, and stories of troubled behavior should be infused with some sort of lightheartedness in order to make the medicine go down. But this tale and the people who populate it are dreary, codependent, self-centered, hateful, humorless and hedonistic. Its like spending a weekend with that kin-killing bunch from the Renaissance, the Borgia family.

Can viewing this movie be helpful to our spiritual life? I suppose we can be reminded that the things we say and do can affect others for a lifetime. By watching this group we realize that too much self-absorption is destructive and that becoming dependent on people who only find fault with others is equally destructive. But then we could learn that from reading the Bible. The Word of God teaches us to put God first, then others, ourselves last. In doing so, we ultimately find peace and fulfillment. Im still far from maintaining that directive, but the characters in this production dont even try.

Though I disliked this movie due to its humorless, argumentative structure, it is well made, the acting uniformly professional. Is that reason enough to see it? Check out its content first. That should help you decide.

DVD Alternative: Babettes Feast. This 1987 Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film centers around two religiously devout Danish sisters who show kindness to a homeless woman. When she wins a lottery, the woman shares her good fortune in a most lavish manner. Based on a short story by Isak Dinessen, it is a beautiful tale of devotion and sacrifice, as well as a healing parable where quarreling friends and acquaintances are brought together once they shed their pious austerity. The film urges us not to hide behind our religion, but to put it into action.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Distributor: Paramount Vantage

Summary
Crude Language: Intimate conversations concerning sexual behavior pepper this production.
Obscene Language: Around 70 obscenities, mostly the f- and s-words and spoken from most every character, including the preteens.
Profanity: Six misuses of Christs name and four profane uses of Gods name.
Violence: A man beats another for trying to seduce his teenage daughter; a mentally unbalanced teenage boy attacks a younger kid and nearly bites off his ear; we see a slaughtered hog.
Sexual Intercourse: The lead character is seen masturbating; a couple is seen before the sex act, both are nude; the story has several conversations concerning sex, including the two lead women discussing their fathers abusive sexual behavior and the teen babysitter saying shed have sex with the boys mother; the lead is an adulterer; the man getting married reveals that he came on to the babysitter; the couple getting married live together, she is pregnant.
Nudity: Two scenes feature male and female nudity.
Homosexual Conduct: A gay couple is featured, though there are no sexual situations between them.
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog: Several sexual conversations.
Drug Abuse: Lots of drinking and the main character smokes.
Other: None
Running Time: 93 minutes
Intended Audience: Adults

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