Note: This review reflects the 149 minute version.
A privileged New York high school junior literally shepherds a dying woman to the other side after she's hit by a bus. The driver, distracted by the junior, Lisa (Paquin), runs a red light and flattens the woman. "Margaret" is Lisa's reconciliation of a youthful outlook to one more adult. It's a premise sounding far more promising than the result.
The title derives from the Hopkins' poem, "Spring and Fall" (1880)
"To a young child
Margaret, are you grieving / Over Goldengrove unleaving? / Leaves, like the things of man, you / With your fresh thoughts care for, can you? / Ah! as the heart grows older / It will come to such sights colder. . ."
A talented filmmaker, Mr. Lonergan crafted "You Can Count On Me," a sharply observed tale of two siblings in crisis. He also wrote the entertaining yet trivial "Analyze This," "Analyze That," and the disappointing "Gangs of New York." "Margaret" is an attempt to thumb his nose at those trivialities. Instead, he rubs intellectual snobbery and pretense into the audience's nose; the attempt at drawing parallels between Lisa's quest and world politics arrives at the table still raw and is uncomfortably didactic.
Some reviewers crowed, "Masterpiece! Masterpiece!" ("The New York Times" printed a feature article about "Margaret.") A troubled history and abysmal box office are the counterpoints. While at times masterful and somewhat intriguing, "Margaret" is, at its gooey center, an overlong meander with a theme cobbed from a poem. One wonders what the 36 additional minutes in Lonergan's cut (for an astonishing, snoozy 185 minutes) add to this already plodding misfire.
The completion of this film has been the subject of a few lawsuits. The legal wrangling led to a film wrested from Lonergan's hands to be edited by Schoonmaker and Scorcese. Fear not, Masochists. The DVD features both cuts.
Wasted! Wasted! Wasted! Broderick, Damon, Reno, Ruffalo, Janney (particularly the wonderful Janney - the accident victim). The hapless characters could easily have been handled by lesser-knowns for the material is far too shallow for the combined star power. Adding insult, Lonergan wrote himself in as the divorced dad living on the left coast. His scenes are beyond expendable.
Paquin does fine, yet, at 24, she's long-in-the-tooth to be believable as a 17 year old (at first glance she appears passable as a college junior). There are fireworks between Lisa and her mother, an excellent J. Smith-Cameron. However, they become shrill and muddied through repetition.
This script was in process for many years (and exhibits the associated constipation).
There's an unspoken trust between filmmaker and audience. The expectation is the story has clarity and a through-line to reward we popcorn munchers in the dark. Mr. Lonergan broke the trust through reversal by expecting the audience to help him understand "Margaret." If this is where Lonergan is headed as a Director, authoring "Analyze The Other Thing" should be the next entry on his resume.
Action / Drama
Action / Drama
Bothersome New York City high-school student Lisa Cohen (17), who consistently messes up her life and that of boy classmates, searches New York in vain for a fit cowboy hat to wear at an excursion with her separated father and stepmother. Spotting one on bus driver Maretti's head but failing to board, she stubbornly runs along and keeps claiming his confused attention, until the bus hits a blind senior, who is wounded fatally The NYPD quickly closes the case as an accident, but Lisa, duly consumed by guilt and spared any charge, starts bothering everyone and making a mean pest of herself, not only at home, as self-absorbed actress mother may deserve, but also in the precinct, tracking down the victim's uninterested kin out of town and even Maretti at home. A family friend lawyer gets involved in the case, digging in to compromising circumstances and causing real trouble to people who were of the hook.
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