Who's in It:
Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jack Black
The Basics: Think you dread visiting your family for the holidays? Think that stuff like The Family Stone was a big serving of jive? Well, that's because it was. So you might enjoy commiserating with the bitter Ingmar Bergman-ish characters of this black but still somehow sort of sympathetic dramedy. The plot: Kidman, a woman unable to control the horrible things she says to everyone around her, visits her estranged sister (Leigh) just as Leigh is about to marry superloser Black. Then lots of awful stuff goes down, but don't commiserate too much. Over-identification might make you want to cut your wrists.
What's the Deal? What I like about this movie is the way that absolutely nothing goes right. Not a single conversation, not a family croquet game, not a neighborly dispute with people who appear to slaughter pigs in their dining room, not the cutting down of a nuisance tree, not a single wedding plan, not one moment of Kidman's emotionally incestuous relationship with her own son. Everything is off; everything is wrong. Even the weather sucks. And then Kidman gets a bug in her ear she can't get out. And then Leigh craps her pants, which leads to Kidman's commentary, directed to her son, "It's not just for babies. It'll happen to you someday." It is seriously the least comforting movie of 2007. You kind of have to admire that.
Speaking of Ingmar Bergman: Director Noah Baumbach owes that guy a lot. He's less interested in the stony silences (unless you count the lack of anything resembling a musical score) than he is the sniping back and forth. But still, he knows about family loathing that gets all muddled up with family need.
Dear Nicole, Please Keep Doing What You're Doing: I want to cast my tiny little vote for you appearing in more little weirdo movies like Fur, Dogville, Birth and this one and fewer rancid big-budgeters like The Invasion and Bewitched. I know one kind pays the bills and the other just satisfies people like me, but still, if I wore a hat, I'd tip it to you every time you wound up onscreen making out with Robert Downey Jr. as a werewolf. You are our coolest A-lister right now.
Who Should See This: People who are not easily bummed out.