One family. Infinite degrees of separation.
The porcelain beauty of Nicole Kidman provides the perfect face for narcissism in Margot at the Wedding, writer/director Noah Baumbach's follow-up to his justly praised The Squid and the Whale. When Margot (Kidman) comes to attend the wedding of her sister Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh) with her son Claude (Zane Pais, making his film debut), it seems as if a family rift is being mended--but soon Margot and Pauline, despite their best efforts, revert to their most dysfunctional selves. It doesn't help that Pauline's fiance (Jack Black) is woefully depressed, Margot's lover (Ciaran Hinds, Rome) is as narcissistic as she is, and Margot's estranged husband (John Turturro) can't recognize how Margot cringes at his every effort at reconciliation. Margot at the Wedding may sound like a festival of neurosis, and it is--but the deft and subtle script, fully-lived-in performances, and empathic direction create moments so vivid you can't help but be drawn into the characters' ragged lives. At the movie's center is a mother-son relationship both loving and poisonous, portrayed with stark clarity. Kidman is the mirror image of Jeff Daniels as the arrogant father in The Squid and the Whale; she pulls her child down with her as she sinks in self-absorption. Pais, with a simple but heartbreaking performance, gives the brittle movie a sympathetic core. --Bret Fetzer