This immersion in sibling malice and simmering resentment, with one of the most infuriating characters in recent movies holding us under, tramples the commandment that only the pure of heart and noble of deed are worth a viewer's scrutiny. As in The Squid and the Whale, writer-director Noah Baumbach's chosen milieu is the company of educated, intelligent, empathetically blinkered New Yorkers who know how to use words for everything except concern. Nicole Kidman, all sculpted cheekbones and blithe venom, is the writer who returns to her family home for her sister Pauline's wedding; within hours, she's renewed lifelong tensions with her sister (Jennifer Jason Leigh), alienated the lumpen fiancé (Jack Black), and spilled a secret sure to upend Pauline's household. Baumbach writes lacerating, shockingly funny dialogue that doesn't just lash the intended target—it lays open the speaker as well. The brilliantly scripted movie is shot, edited, and acted for maximum squirm inducement, and it's been released just in time for the holidays. Bring the family. Or better yet, leave them.
Kidman joins the glum parade.
Opens at Harvard Exit, Wed., Nov. 21. Rated R. 93 minutes.