Monday, December 17, 2007

Intriguing, Indelible, Insightful

...and many other adjectives beginning with 'in.' I refer to Noah Baumbach's awesome 'Margot at the Wedding,' which I saw with David eight days, two colds, and a 60-page publication ago...

Do I exaggerate to say that this dysfunctional family portrait is as memorable as any by Bergman, O'Neill, or Woody Allen?

Baumbach has delivered on the immense promise he showed with 2005's 'The Squid and the Whale.' 'Squid' was not about marine life but about a disintegrating marriage as seen and felt by the couple's two teenage sons.

Like 'Squid,' 'Margot' is incredibly observant and authentic of both adults and teenagers, and coaxes superb work from both stalwart film veterans and budding young talent. The story focuses on Jennifer Jason-Leigh (above left) and Nicole Kidman (left) as sisters of Chekhovian dimension, with Kidman taking a bravely unsympathetic role. Jack Black (above right) makes a quantum leap of nuanced acting as Leigh's fiancé. These multi-faceted characters spout razor-sharp dialogue with near-perfect direction...

Without further ado, the 5 parameters of criticism:

1. Four Words That Encapsule: 'Growing-Up Children, Childlike Grownups'

2. Haiku (5/7/5):
'Path to adulthood
tears, doubt, wonder, puzzlement;
ahead, behind - blur'

3. Oblique Comments: I like a movie where the characters, dialogue, and situations are so charged, pregnant, and sometimes dense, that I know I'll have to revisit the them to capture different levels and fully sort it out... This isn't the sort of fare that goes boffo and the box office. But it is high art....

4. Insight: Hollywood films seldom capture the physical and emotional awkwardness of early teen years, partly due to insistence on good-looking actors and easily digestable feelings and situations. Thus, the troubled teen years are truly the province of foreign and independent film. Chile's 'Machuca' was such a film, as was the US's own, underappreciated, brilliant 'The Ice Storm,' by Ang Lee. In Margot, the youngsters give compelling, uncomfortable, believable performances, especially Zane Pais as Claude, the son of Nicole Kidman's character. Long-haired, gawky, a bit androgynous, insecure, Claude is attached to his mother, sometimes hurt by her, and he is wistful about, and distant from his father.

5. Link: Metacritic review central. How did this only get a 66 average review, I ask you? I'm with the Chicago Tribune - I'd give it 100.

And here's the trailer:

I met Andres 19 Years Ago today

Cartoon du Jour:

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