Saturday, July 21, 2012

Review: Margaret (2011)

Anna Paquin as Lisa Cohen

Directed by Kenneth Lonergan
Produced by Gary Gilbert, Sydney Pollack, and Scott Rudin
Written by Kenneth Lonergan
Starring Anna Paquin, J. Smith-Cameron, Jean Reno, Jeannie Berlin, Allison Janney, Matthew Broderick, Mark Ruffalo, and Matt Damon


After years of legal delays with the studio, Kenneth Lonergan's masterful film is finally available for purchase, including his 3-hour version and the studio's 2 1/2 hour cut. This drama revolves around Lisa Cohen (Paquin), who is living in post-9/11 New York. She is an opinionated, high-strung teenager struggling to exist in a world of corrupt politics and terrorism. When she inadvertently causes a bus accident that kills a woman (Janney), Lisa alters her story to the police on the scene because she wants to protect the driver (Ruffalo), and she feels as though it is the right thing to do. This mistake weighs on her until she seeks legal action against the driver and the bus company with the aid of the deceased woman's friend Emily (Berlin) and her cousin. While this is going on, her relationship with her mother Joan (Smith-Cameron) deteriorates, and she becomes angrier at the whole situation and the state of the world. On top of everything else, Lisa faces a harsh reality when the case is settled without the result she wanted in the first place, and she is forced to live with the consequences of her actions, as she tries to put her life back together.

This chopped-up masterpiece surprisingly benefits from the studio's tampering, as the theatrical cut fits the back-and-forth movements of the narrative better than Lonergan's longer, more fluid version. Paquin gives a career-best performance, and the entire supporting cast (especially Smith-Cameron and Berlin) are quite good. As Lisa, Paquin lets her character's emotions explode onto the screen, depicting her vulnerability and bewilderment in a rare and incredibly moving feat. Joan and Emily are more world-weary characters that Smith-Cameron and Berlin play with such ease and such heartache. Damon as Lisa's laid-back teacher and Ruffalo as the driver are solid as usual, and Lonergan himself gives a nice supporting performance as Lisa's father. Aside from the exeptional performances, this film also features a writer/director effort from Lonergan that is spot on. Rather than preaching to the viewer, he allows the story unfold, as we watch these people try to relate to one another, to figure it all out. Time removed from the film has only enhanced my love for it. Although it is not without its faults, the film remains a dramatic tour de force by Lonergan and company. Seeing it would be no mistake, even if you only see the theatrical version. It might be the best thing you'll see for quite awhile.

Oscar Tally: None (Sadly.)


  1. Wow, what a review. I have not seen this yet as after seeing 4 seasons of True Blood filed with Paquin's cringeworthy acting I'm in no rush. But which version should I see? Shorter or DC?

    1. Haha, thanks. I'd go with the shorter version. The DC offers footage that does flesh out some minor details that are hinted at in the shorter one, but the DC also feels like it gives too much away. It really is too long.

      Meanwhile, the shorter one does feel a bit choppy, but it works for this particular narrative. The pacing is actually much better, and the shorter version is also more subtle and more compact than the DC.

  2. Good review, as you know I was really impressed by the film, which I think worked well despite the production difficulties. The editing is a little atypical (or choppy as you put it), I saw that almost like chapters in a book.
    You could argue Lisa is not the most tactful girl in the world, yet she has her heart in the right place I think. For me it's kind of a coming of age story, as well as a crime drama.

    is that 4 stars out of 5 , or 4 out of 4 ?

    1. Thanks. You put it much better than I did. Chapters in a book is a perfect way do describe the editing.

      Lisa isn't very tactful, but I agree that her heart is in the right place. Also, I really like that it's more than one genre.

      It's 4 out of 4. I have it posted on the Reviews page that reviews are out of 4 stars. Maybe I should post it somewhere more prominent.

  3. Loved this film but still need to see the 3hr cut

    1. The 3hr cut is definitely worth a look, but I prefer the theatrical cut. Thanks for stopping by! :)