Do you secretly understand why murders happen most often in families? Have you ever thought that you were the only sane member of your family, when you know for certain that every member of your family feels the same way? Do you feel like no family could be more dysfunctional than yours?
Odds are, you could take comfort in MARGOT AT THE WEDDING, directed by Noah Baumbach. If you've seen Baumbach's other works, THE SQUID AND THE WHALE and GREENBERG, you may have some idea about what to expect. MARGOT AT THE WEDDING, however, exceeded my expectations for dysfunction. The film is a beautiful, funny trainwreck—you can see what's coming, though you don't know how bad it's going to be, and you can't turn away.
Nicole Kidman plays one
of the worst mothers you've ever seen, though her monstrosity comes not from physical neglect or abuse—she is in fact too involved with her son and thus her emotional put-downs perfectly hit his solar plexus. Jennifer Jason Leigh is tremendous as her sister and I have to admit that I didn't recognize who she was until the end credits. And you shouldn't let Jack Black scare you away. He actually plays a character in this film, as opposed to just himself. He ends up being one of the more sympathetic figures in the film, despite what he's done (she said ominously).
the explanation of the mustache is hilarious
The cast lived together during the film, to more perfectly capture family problems. The film's original name was NICOLE AT THE BEACH, but once they got Kidman, they changed the name. Kidman, as I've said, is fantastic, but if you're expecting a consistent American accent, this is not the movie in which to find it.
As I was thinking about all that was right about this movie, I was thinking about all of the other dysfunctional family movies and how so few of them captured the dark comedy inherent in the situation.
If this is your thing, though, try the other Baumbach movies, including the one he wrote with Wes Anderson, THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU. And then move on to Wes Anderson's body of work—THE ROYAL TENNENBAUMS, THE DARJEELING LIMITED, and others. You could go old school with SIXTEEN CANDLES and BETTER OFF DEAD. HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS gives you all the angst, plus Robert Downey Jr. and Anne Bancroft, which should be reason enough to watch anything (but it's also a great film). RAISING ARIZONA often gets cited as a prime example of family dysfunction, although it really only delves into one generation (and the attempt to create another). LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE complicates multi-generational conflict by adding in a long minibus ride. Finally, need I even mention THE SIMPSONS MOVIE? Probably not, as they are America's favorite functional dysfunctional family.
However, while we're on the subject, perhaps I could mention that the book I co-authored with fellow columnist Denise Du Vernay on THE SIMPSONS, THE SIMPSONS IN THE CLASSROOM: EMBIGGENING THE LEARNING EXPERIENCE WITH THE WISDOM OF SPRINGFIELD, is available now!
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