Margaret (2011) by Kenneth Lonergan
I can’t get this film out of my head. I saw the 150min cut but I now really need to see the three-hour version (released on DVD) before I can allow myself to throw Margaret onto the masterpiece pile.
Insanely impressive cast + haunting and atmospheric score by Nico Muhly
Margaret is a 2011 drama film written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan. The film stars Anna Paquin, Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo, Kieran Culkin, Olivia Thirlby, and Rosemarie DeWitt. Margaret originally was scheduled for release in 2007 by Fox Searchlight Pictures, but was repeatedly delayed while Lonergan struggled to create a final cut he was satisfied with, resulting in multiple lawsuits.
While the studio insisted the film’s running time could not exceed 150 minutes, Lonergan’s preferred version was closer to three hours. Martin Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker contributed to editing a 150-minute version which Lonergan approved, but producer Gary Gilbert rejected the cut. Eventually, Fox Searchlight Pictures released the 150-minute film limitedly in the United States on September 30, 2011.
A three-hour extended version, incorporating extra footage and a revised score and sound mix, was subsequently released on DVD in July 2012.
Peter Bradshaw for the Guardian:
Since 2000, when he made his mark with a tremendous debut, You Can Count on Me, Kenneth Lonergan has been absent from the radar as a director. The reason turns out to have been years of acrimonious studio argument over the length of his followup project, a post-9/11 New York drama in a world of trauma, rage, blame, overtalking and interrupting. Originally conceived as a three-hour movie, it has been allowed into cinemas in a two-and-a-half hour cut.
Perhaps Lonergan is content with this and perhaps not, but the resulting movie is stunning: provocative and brilliant, a sprawling neurotic nightmare of urban catastrophe, with something of John Cassavetes and Tom Wolfe, and rocket-fuelled by a superbly thin-skinned performance by Anna Paquin. Its sheer energy and dramatic vehemence, alongside that raw lead performance, puts it way ahead of more tastefully formed dramas.Paquin plays Lisa, the daughter of divorced parents: a mouthy, smart-but-not-that-smart teen at private school, sexy but emotionally naive, self-absorbed and scarily hyper-articulate in the language of entitlement and grievance. She may have inherited drama-queen tendencies from her mother Joan (J Smith-Cameron), a Broadway stage star, with whom she lives in New York. One day, after an encounter of pouting defiance with her exasperated mathematics teacher (Matt Damon), Lisa takes it into her head to buy a cowboy hat. She sees a bus driver wearing one she likes: he is played by Mark Ruffalo. With a teenager’s heedless disregard for the consequences, she flirtatiously runs alongside his bus, waving wildly, asking where he got it. He smiles back at her, taking his eyes off the road – with terrible results.Lisa is overwhelmed with ambiguous emotion at having contributed to a disaster and then participated in a coverup, and, compulsively driven to do something, draws everyone into a whirlpool of painful and destructive confrontations. But is that emotion guilt or righteousness? Or a sociopathic convulsion, a need to create a huge redemptive drama with herself at the centre, to lash out against her mother and the entire adult world; or to enact vengeance against a man who, without trying, has placed her in a position of weakness – at the very point at which she considers she should be attaining her adult, queen-bee status? Paquin creates that rarest of things: a profoundly unsympathetic character who is mysteriously, mesmerically, operatically compelling to watch.