Nicole Kidman delivers a masterclass in wintry, waspy wristcutting, so caustic is Margot's neurosis.
Margot at the Wedding
Here is a directorial follow-up that actually surpasses its much-admired predecessor, 2005's tug-of-war film The Squid and the Whale. It is a tale of two sisters engaged in another war of attrition. Margot (Nicole Kidman), an urbane fiction writer, is returning to the New England family home for Pauline's (Jennifer Jason Leigh) nuptials to the slacker painter-musician, Malcolm (Jack Black). There are echoes of A Streetcar Named Desire and All About Eve (Margo Channing anyone?), yet what endures most is how the uneasy peace is reeled through Harris Savides's cinematography. His work evokes the nouvelle vague masters like Néstor Almendros: shot entirely with natural light, browns and beiges and bronzes blanketing the fiery tones of Baumbach's dialogue that set the set pieces alight. And in these scenes, Kidman delivers a masterclass in wintry, waspy wristcutting, so caustic is Margot's neurosis. She is both the film's source of conflict and its point of confluence into which those around her pour their fear and loathing. To which Kidman - unpredictably so - steps up, or deflects, with the ferocity of a Williams sister rally. Watch how she hits her mark in the final scene as she joins her son on the bus, pulling off the exquisitely ambiguous ending. It makes her Oscar-winning turn as Virginia Woolf seem like merely a nose in the park.