Margot at the Wedding is a film torpedoed by its own self-indulgence. The film starts by offering us a thin premise -- a frosty, New England writer named Margot comes to town for the occasion of her quasi-bohemian sister Pauline's wedding to a slob -- and then more or less does nothing in the way of development, opting instead for ninety minutes of hints and innuendo. Nothing in this family dysfunction drama ever rises to the surface, even in the third act. Usually, you at least know what the director was going for, whether they succeeded or failed, but not here. Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Jason Leigh have to be given some amount of credit for doing the requisite character-building work, playing past the obvious physical dissimilarities between them and creating a workable, sisterly dynamic that can go from warm to freezing in an instant, but there's so little in the way of compelling events for them to react to that it's almost hard to maintain interest. Margot at the Wedding is a ninety minute film, with about twenty minutes worth of content.

Jack Black is the third lead as Malcolm, Pauline's soon-to-be-husband who has no job and no ambition to do anything except possibly commit infidelity. It's hard to say whether Noah Baumbach hired Black to play a thinly-disguised version of himself or whether he intended to have him do heavy lifting, acting-wise, because there's an odd mixture of both on display. There are moments when he's simply playing his part with none of his usual verbal or physical affectations, and there are other moments, such as in a late scene where he's supposed to be doing some crying, when he's unwisely allowed to lapse into a light version of Jack Black schtick. Both incarnations of his character seem to be a noticeably bad match for Jennifer Jason Leigh, by the way. Her natural gravitas doesn't mesh well with his absurdist persona, and whenever they are together on screen, there's a palpable sense of 'acting' going on that undermines Jason Leigh's seemingly honest attempts at character development. Theirs is just one of several of the film's actor pairings that don't seem very natural.