Posted by Alia Haddad on January 20, 2012 at 9:10 am
Is this the first time you’re hearing about Kenneth Lonergan’s Margaret? Well, until I saw the thing, I hadn’t heard about it either. This fact is surprising for sure. Not only is this Lonergan’s second directing effort since his indie-smash hit You Can Count on Me about a single mother (Laura Linney) who must adapt when her prodigal brother (Mark Ruffalo) returns home, but also the cast in Margaret is one that, I’m sure, creates envious directors all around the world. I mean, Anna Paquin, Mark Ruffalo, Matt Damon, J. Smith-Cameron, Jean Reno, Allison Janney, Matthew Broderick and Kieran Culkin all in one film? Could it get any better?!
Well, let me tell you (or rather, implore in you) that this huge cast of movie stars was the only good thing this film has to offer. Too harsh? Well, unless it was Lonergan’s goal to create a movie which analyzes the depths of my personal agony, I’d say this was one big miss. Margaret, which centers on Lisa Cohen (Anna Paquin), a teenage girl living in New York City, as she deals with the emotional repercussions after accidentally helping cause a bus accident that killed one pedestrian (Allison Janney), was a two and a half-hour quest of emotional pain, depression and solitude on the viewer’s part.
How so? Well, to start, the movie was incredibly unfocused. In the New York Times Movie Review of the same film, A.O. Scott claims that despite the actual filming of Margaret taking place in 2005 (made especially clear by Matt Damon’s svelte figure), editing problems were the cause of the six-year release delay. And, proving that there is a first time for everything, I one-hundred percent agree with Scott when he claims that these editing issues were not solved even six years later. The movie so eagerly jumps from tangental plot point to its next tangental plot point that at the end of the movie when it has hit so many unnecessary things, it prompted chuckles of disbelief from the audience, as if we were all harmoniously thinking, “Okay, what now?”
Moreover, while Lonergan was praised in 2000 for creating such believably complex characters in You Can Count on Me, the multi-dimensions of these previous characters did not seem to carry over into this film. Rather, these characters– all of these characters– were so unlikable that they were not only flat characters, but also severely unbelievable. Where did the redeeming qualities of the prodigal, unreliable brother go in You Can Count on Me? Perhaps, like Janney, they were run over by the bus in Margaret.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the film tried so hard to hark on a post-9/11 New York– tackling such controversial issues in Lisa’s Upper West Side high school classroom as well as at dinner parties Lisa’s mother attends, that not only do these issues seem much less relevant six years later, but also it presented an even more unfocused movie. What happened to the bus accident?!
What the viewer was left with is a movie which tried so hard to do something new and innovative in a see of Hollywood blockbusters that it failed the actual test of being a good movie.
SKIP IT, I beg of you.