What is it with all these movies that seem so promising and end up disappointing as hell. I mean literally.
That’s the way I felt when NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN was over, like hey, I was so into this flick, it is so well done, and then it’s like huh? Same for MARGOT AT THE WEDDING.
Some major acting chops in one of my favorite actresses, Jennifer Jason Leigh. They don’t get any better. But she seemed poorly directed in this. And Nicole Kidman is great in these kinds of roles—neurotic bitch etc.—for whatever reasons, but seemed over the top at times in MARGOT.
Jack Black’s no slacker either, but also inconsistent in a role that’s a little difficult for me to believe. Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character really feels like she’s somehow over-the-hill, reached a point in life when women become “invisible” to men? Hello! Look in the mirror sister. I don’t know any man that wouldn’t notice you and want to be in Jack Black’s character’s shoes, or shorts, or tight-y whiteys (yes, we get to see Black’s bare ass and a frontal jockey shorts shot). Only this isn’t supposed to be a comedy.
What does Leigh’s character see in him? Okay, I guess there’s something, the guy’s a movie star, but in real life. Come to think of it, I have known those kinds of couples, but still, not Jennifer Jason Leigh.
Anyway, I’m ranting and wandering and you probably don’t know what I’m talking about. So let me make it clear. A lot of great acting talent seems to have been wasted in MARGOT AT THE WEDDING, due to pretentious writing and directing, and some very odd cinematography that I’d guess some critics have probably raved about but gave me eye strain (and may just be the problem of filming in natural light on digital rather than real film).
The story is depressing, the characters are pretty depressing too, and once again working people, or local yokels are used as scapegoats for meanness and intolerance and general barbarism, while the “East Coast” intellectual elite that the main characters represent almost make you understand why it’s so easy for right-wingers to use the ”East Coast intellectual elite” as scapegoats for all that’s wrong with this country since the ‘60s etc.
But the same kinds of folks in DAN IN REAL LIFE, (also mostly set in an off season new England beach house that none of us could afford) though the movie is less “independent film realism” (i.e. no kinky sex, in fact no sex, or much profanity for that matter, along with very little “irony”), come across as a lot less scapegoat-able. In fact, they’re more reminiscent of HANNAH AND HER SISTERS, if a little lower on the “East Coast elite” scale. It’s sort of DAN AND HIS BROTHERS.
Both flicks owe a debt to Woody Allen, but MARGOT AT THE WEDDING misses his humor and humanity, while DAN IN REAL LIFE misses his urbane if neurotic sophistication, but gets the humanity right and makes an attempt at some humor. Yes, it has a Hollywood ending that you can see coming a mile away. But there’s a reason for those kinds of endings, especially in romantic comedies, because they’re so satisfying people will sit still for whatever life lessons they also always incorporate to try and make them seem more than what they are.
It’s a genre convention, like those in a good action flick, or noir, or melodrama, etc. Nothing wrong with that. DAN IN REAL LIFE is a pretty good example of the romantic comedy genre, though surprisingly light on the comedy for a Steve Carell flick. But at least I didn’t feel cheated when it was over.
MARGOT AT THE WEDDING, for my taste, just tries too hard to be “hard” on its characters in a way that says: TAKE THESE PEOPLE SERIOUSLY, THEY ARE REALLY REAL AND THE PROOF IS THEY’RE REALLY FUCKED UP IN WAYS YOU RECOGNIZE BUT MUCH MORE CLEVERLY THAN YOU. Etc.
If you need a nice flick that entertains and satisfies, DAN IN REAL LIFE will do adequately. If you want to feel disturbed, and maybe depressed as well, MARGOT AT THE WEDDING is your fare. I’ll take JUNO.