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“Margot at the Wedding”

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By Matt Singer

IFC News

[Photo: “Margot at the Wedding,” Paramount Classics, 2007]

There are two family trees in Noah Baumbach’s “Margot at the Wedding,” and both are in deep trouble. The one in the backyard of the Zellers’ house is overgrown. Neighbors say it’s dead and demand it be cut down. The Zellers themselves can’t agree on anything except the fact that the tree must stay, protecting it as a way of clinging to their own flimsy relationships.

The title character (played by Nicole Kidman) returns home with her son Claude (Zane Pais) for the title nuptials of her sister Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Baumbach’s real-life wife). Margot’s thoroughly convinced that Pauline’s sad-sack fiancé Malcolm (Jack Black) isn’t good enough for her sister, just as we’re convinced that Margot is probably projecting some of her own marital dissatisfaction onto the situation. Like Baumbach’s last film, the wonderful “The Squid and the Whale,” “Margot” explores how resilient families truly are in the wake of disintegrating marriages.

Whether these stories are autobiographical or not, Baumbach clearly understands dysfunctional families. In the case of “Margot at the Wedding” though, he may have invented one so convincingly screwed up, so far beyond repair that spending 90 loveless, awkward minutes with them could be seen as a waste of time. “The Squid and the Whale”‘s Berkmans were at odds, but likeably so; the Zellers are similarly unhappy, but they don’t share the sweetness and wry sense of humor that made their predecessors so entertaining. Margot’s most ironically poignant line comes at the end of the film when she tells Claude, “It’s good you’re going. I wouldn’t want to be around me either.” It’s a sentiment many audience members will share.

That’s unfortunate, because Baumbach remains a clever writer, and his skills as a director continue to grow. Nothing is overlooked, and you have to admire how Baumbach micromanages scenes to make big points with little events — consider the way he punctuates a particularly uncomfortable scene at a pool party with the discovery of a dead mouse in the deep end. “Margot” is far and away his best-looking and most carefully visually crafted film as a director, and the underlit interiors and muted colors aesthetic augments the story’s emotional realism. He also draws a wonderful performance out of Black, who is at his funniest in a role that isn’t necessarily written all that humorously, drawing the laughs out with delivery, posture and glances (his physique and lack of shame in his underwear helps with the chuckles too). The movie would probably be better off, in fact, if it was “Malcolm at the Wedding.”

But it’s Margot at the wedding, and so the movie hangs on her; the way she rejects her husband and her new lover; the way she treats Claude more like a sibling, or even a psychiatrist, than a son. She’s self-obsessed, yet totally devoid of self-awareness. That contradiction is never more fully on display as the scene when Margot decides to climb that dead family tree in order to prove just how good she used to be at climbing trees, only to realize that once she gets up there she can’t get back down. And now she’s stuck.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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