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Margot at the Wedding
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this mature, sometimes-uncomfortable drama isn't for kids, even though Jack Black co-stars (this is definitely not one of his over-the-top comedy roles). Focused on the long-repressed conflicts between two adult sisters, its themes include competition, sexual desire and frustration, and passive-aggressive behavior. Several arguments include yelling and crying, and two brief fights show victims (men) getting kicked or hit. There are discussions and images of masturbation, rape, and abuse, and an adult man makes out with an adolescent girl. Language includes many uses of "f--k."
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
"I can't say I have a whole lot of hope for the whole thing," says Margot (Nicole Kidman) at the start of MARGOT AT THE WEDDING. She and her adolescent son, Claude (Zane Pais), are on their way to Margot's childhood home in the Hamptons, where her sister Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh) now lives with her fiancc, Malcolm (Jack Black). Unfortunately, Margot's sense of foreboding influences the film as much as her sister's upcoming nuptials. A successful New York-based writer, Margot repeatedly belittles Pauline's choice of Malcolm while also framing herself as a victim; her own marriage, to Jim (John Turturro), is in trouble, though she hasn't yet revealed this to her son. And though Pauline, who's been estranged from her sister for years, wants to believe that her relationship with Malcolm is the real thing, she worries that her own insecurity and loneliness make her impossible to love.
Is it any good?
The film turns into a series of arguments and dire revelations; each is well acted, but their accumulation eventually feels crushing. When Margot at last decides to send Claude off alone on a bus, his simultaneous reluctance to go and desire to trust her is heartbreaking. That it's captured in a few moments in which he and his mother are at last not talking, not trying so desperately to order their feelings through language suggests at last that there's hope for them. Smartly, though, the film keeps still at last on Claude's face, letting you imagine his future.
Claude is at the center of this maelstrom of immature adults and kids who compete for attention and resent one another. His perspective more or less grounds Noah Baumbach's latest investigation of long-festering family dysfunction, and so his changing attitudes toward his mother, aunt, and Malcolm -- as well as his cousin Ingrid (Flora Cross) and teenage housekeeper Maisy (Hallet Feiffer) -- tend to shape viewers' opinion.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the ways this family deals with pain and betrayal. Do their interactions and reactions seem realistic to you? Why is it important to deal with tensions between siblings and between parents and children? How does communication help people resolve differences? Would better communication have helped Margot and Pauline? Families can also discuss the movie's open-ended "ending." What do you think of movies like that? Why do most Hollywood movies not end that way?
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