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NYFF: “Margot at the Wedding.”

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"I think they resent us because we're... I don't know what we are."
We’ll give you this: Noah Baumbach is a masterful writer of cringingly sad-funny dialogue, and quite possibly an astute chronicler of a certain segment of the neurotic sorta-intelligentsia. But we hate his characters. We hate them so much that halfway through "Margot at the Wedding" we decided that the only way we could preserve any positive feelings toward the film would be if in its final act an errant UFO crashed into the seaside house in which most of the characters reside, killing them all in a giant ball of extraterrestrial flame. This did not happen, perhaps because the money went toward casting instead.

And fine casting it is: Nicole Kidman as the porcelain Margot, a writer of New Yorker short stories that, despite her insistence otherwise, cannibalize details from the lives of her family members; Jennifer Jason Leigh as her scattered sister Pauline, who invites Margot up to her wedding in their childhood home as a kind of self-destructive gesture; Jack Black as Malcolm, Pauline’s well-meaning ne’er-do-well fiancé; Zane Pais as Claude, Margot’s overprotected son. Margot and company seem to dwell in the same realm as the characters of "The Squid and the Whale" (and, for that matter, "Kicking and Screaming") but don’t have the excuses of being directly inspired by the director’s home life or of being young and foolish. They are instead mainly extremely imperfect adults (as are many of us) who wave their disorders and their childhood traumas like emblems of passive-aggressive war (as most of us, we’d hope, avoid). Margot, whose own marriage is falling apart, is instantly critical of Malcolm, who succumbs to self-loathing as Pauline is pulled over to her sister’s point of view, while between Pauline and Margot are enough layers of history, love, mistrust, resentment and hate to warrant an archaeological dig. But for every scene with the right amount of bite (like the one in which Pauline goads Margot into showing off her tree-climbing skills) there are dozens that are just unpleasant, of sniping over dinners, at public readings, over phone calls ("You make me feel like shit — I hate myself when I’m with you" Margot tells her husband when he arrives to attempt to salvage things). At times the film, which is shot unflashily with lots of natural lighting, seems like Baumbach doing Woody Allen doing Ingmar Bergman. Well, maybe it’s consistently funnier than that, but it’s also reliant on the audience feeling some kind of inherent connection, if not sympathy, for its characters that we find incomprehensible, or at least as unreasonable as a disorderly spaceship.

"Margot at the Wedding" screened October 7 and 8th, and will open November 16 in limited release from Paramount Vantage.

+ "Margot at the Wedding" (FilmLinc)
+ "Margot at the Wedding" (Paramount Vantage)

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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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

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