Friday, August 10, 2012

Margaret (US Theatrical Cut)

Anna Paquin is Lisa in Kenneth Lonergan's long-awaited film, Margaret
*** out of ****

Margaret is an overly-long episodic viewing experience where I question if there is a perfect ninety-minute movie buried in it's one-hundred-and-fifty-minute running time, or would it have worked better, stretched-out as a television miniseries? I'm tempted to think the latter. Kenneth Lonergan has made a film with no bad scenes, yet it never seems to take shape as a whole.

Anna Paquin plays Lisa, a smart teenage New Yorker who is discovering her sexuality, dealing with her divorced family, and struggling through school -all while testing boundaries everywhere she goes. When she distracts a bus driver one day (played by Mark Ruffalo), the bus runs a red light, hitting a pedestrian (Allison Janney). The resulting scene is devastating and Lisa doesn't know what to do except to comfort the woman as she dies in the street. Ashamed of her action that contributed to the accident, she lies to the police in her statement as a witness, saying that the light was green, to protect the driver from getting his life destroyed through taking responsibility. The rest of the film follows Lisa's experiences as she becomes more aggressive and difficult to those close to her, not knowing how to cope with the impact that such horror can cause a young mind.

The film is filled with well-played supporting characters (some distractingly too-famous for the simple role) and subplots that are all interesting but make it feel like it's getting over-stuffed with too many relationships to be able to find focus within the narrative of a movie.

The AV Club's review really hits the nail on the head.

Lonergan made a great impression with his 2000 sleeper-hit You Can Count On Me, which has a title that leaves no impression, but is a great film and a touching drama with flawless writing and acting. He's one of those talents who seems too strong to only have a couple films to his career that he can claim ownership of. In this film, he continues to create conversations that feel so completely related to the drama of real life where characters can engage each other emotionally but with the amount of intelligence it takes to make a good conversation last in a beautiful way. Sometimes, the emotion takes over and the scene abruptly cuts to a calm exchange with another character some great time later. 

I feel like I am leaving so much out when I write about such a big movie, and that's my problem with it. This movie, or at least this version of it, has too many profound things to think about and it needs structure.

Listen to an interview with Lonergan on Fresh Air. 

Margaret was shot in 2006, wound up in legal problems regarding the edit of the film, was shelved, found an extremely limited release last year and is just now being released to the masses on blu-ray. There is also an "Extended Cut" dvd available as an extra with the blu-ray, which David Edelstein stresses in his review, is the far superior version. I am curious if it is. This movie's content is so valuable that I will give it another chance in any form. I'll be back to talk more about Margaret.

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