Margaret

8 Aug

 

Director: Kenneth Lonergan

Writer: Kenneth Lonergan

Stars: Anna Paquin, Matt Damon and Mark Ruffalo

Motion Picture Rating: 15

Runtime: 150 – 180 minutes

 

 

This film was made in 2005, but released in 2011. The long delay was the result of lawsuits and counter lawsuits by the studio, director, producers and others. An argument arose when the editing process started; the writer director Kenneth Lonergan apparently fought to release a 3 hour film, but that was not acceptable to his collaborators. The opposing views kept the film on the shelf until now. It was edited, at the very end, by Martin Scorsese with a 2.5 hour film getting a limited cinema run last year. What I saw on DVD was a 3 hour version that I believe was more or less Lonergan’s cut.

Ignoring the 6 year delay and the behind-the-scenes fighting, the film Margaret that I watched on my small screen was really very good. It is a long and unusual movie, but it kept me intrigued for the duration. The story focuses on Anna Paquin as Lisa Cohen, a young woman in New York who unwittingly gets involved in a tragic bus accident. That incident, a truly raw and emotional section of the film, is the catalyst for a slow paced, authentic and multi-layered urban drama.

Margaret has a European art-house feel to it (and that might be another reason that it was not rushed out by the studio). The camera work and the acting are very natural – often background conversations from ‘extras’ will spill over the main dialogue of the lead characters. The length of scenes is also very natural with the writer director taking his time to allow his actors to fully inhabit their parts. As I said, it is a long and unusual film because of this ‘alternative’ approach, but I was captivated by it and by Anna Paquin’s acting right in the heart of it.

Lisa is very hard to like, but Paquin gives everything to the part and that authenticity is powerful. After the bus accident Lisa meets the victim’s relatives and gets involved in a legal claim against the bus company. It is hard to fathom why she will not let the accident go, but it becomes clear that she revels in drama and in being centre stage. She is not pleasant because of this need, but she is also suffering from some form of post-traumatic stress. Lisa is disagreeable, but also lonely and confused and Paquin nails the complexities. For me the biggest disappointment of the lost 6 years of this film is that her amazing performance was not fully appreciated.

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