At the World Cinema Showcase, three’s a crowd. By DAVID LEVINSON.

The Squid and the Whale – Noah Baumbach’s semi-autobiographical account of his parents’ divorce – was a rarity: High-witted and heartfelt, it dabbled in warm brownstone nostalgia, all the while remaining heedful of its chosen milieu (puffy Brooklyn intellectuals). Wrenched free, however, from the prism of nostalgia that colored that film, Baumbach’s latest feature, Margot at the Wedding, is a much more acerbic affair: Like Solondz-by-way-of-Bergman, it squeezes shlock relevations and conversational grit (masturbation; pedophilia) out of the cabin-fever scenario of a hyper-controlling writer, Margot (Nicole Kidman), returning home for the sake of her sister’s wedding. As the movie’s axis-of-evil, Kidman is an iceberg of sculpted malaise – coolly panning all those around her. Yet, for all the trauma of her social flubs (declaring a child to be “retarded”; outing her sister’s hidden pregnancy), there’s almost no vicarious pleasure to be reaped as a viewer: Never witty or charistmatic, Margot painfully exploits the way our sense of selfhood tends to become lodged in others – most obviously in her emasculation of her sensitive young son, Claude (Zane Paris). All of which should really count for something in a landscape at the mercy of alluring ciphers waving pneumatic bolt-guns. But unlike her male forerunner – Jeff Daniel’s pompous misogynist in The Squid and the Whale –, Margot neither deflects easily into caricature, nor is gifted enough context to become penetrable; as such, she hangs in dead air – just another piece in Baumbach’s stilted jigsaw of middle-age.