Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 2007. Scott Rudin Productions. Screenplay by Noah Baumbach. Cinematography by Harris Savides. Produced by Scott Rudin. Production Design by Anne Ross. Costume Design by Ann Roth. Film Editing by Carol Littleton. Independent Spirit Awards 2007. Toronto International Film Festival 2007.
Nicole Kidman gives a layered perforamnce as a successful writer returning to her childhood home to reconnect with her estranged sister (Jennifer Jason Leigh). The two of them haven’t spoken in years, but Kidman has decided that Leigh’s marriage to Jack Black is the perfect excuse to get them back together; once reunited, old frustrations return to the surface and threaten to tear them apart yet again. While at first it may seem that Kidman is the one who has it all together and Leigh is the unstable sibling, plot progression reveals a more complex truth that will have you bouncing back and forth in your sympathies for either one. Baumbach continues to bring the talent for fresh situations and believable dialogue that he displayed in The Squid And the Whale, though this film is so much darker and more depressing. While Squid revolved around the heart of a loving teenager who just needed to grow up, this film has no sweet revelations (even if it does end on a kind note). These people are incredibly messed up (and Harris Savides’ muddy cinematography is no help), but while you have a lot of trouble standing their neuroses, you can’t quite tear yourself away either. The acting and directing are far too good to allow you to write it off as another grimy indie pic about modern-day fuckups. Newcomer Zane Pais is wonderful as Kidman’s life-challenged son.