Margaret (Kenneth Lonergan, 2011) 2.5/4
Director Kenneth Lonergan has had a very difficult journey with his 2nd feature length film, Margaret, which was scheduled to be released in 2007 but continuously got pushed back. The reason: studios hate long movies. It’s funny though, thinking about movie lengths, because aren’t some of the most successful movies over 2 hours long? Originally running at 180 minutes, this traumatic thriller runs just under 150 minutes. Conceived and taking place inside a post-9/11 New York where everyone is full of rage, blame, and the need to interrupt each other, Margaret pulls off an interesting and well-done film, but ends up leaving unanswered questions and thoughts.
Anna Paquin plays Lisa Cohen, a 17-year-old student who is for lack of better words, a complete bitch. She’s inconsiderate, rebellious, and as it turns out, completely psychotic. Walking home from school one day, she distracts a bus driver (Mark Ruffalo) attempting to ask him where he got his cowboy hat. Not looking at the road, he runs a red light and runs over a woman attempting to cross the street. As the woman lies there crushed and missing a leg, Lisa holds her while she screams for help. The lady eventually dies, bloody and confused, in Lisa’s arms. After telling the police that the woman walked against the traffic, Lisa begins feeling terrible for her dishonestly and begins to take the “crime” into her own hands.
The most difficult part about Margaret is trying to decide if Lisa is overly traumatized by the accident, feels emotional guilt, or is just trying to drive people crazy. Her actions are erratic and loud, making everyone feel guilty around her, only wanting to help. My favorite part of the film is when someone finally yells, “you’re not the one that died!” There are so many characters in the film that all play a small part but I felt none of them connected with the story very well. I imagine the original version would have connected some of these paths only slightly taken in the finished product. The cast includes Anna Paquin, Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo, Olivia Thirlby, Kieren Culkin, Matthew Broderick, Allison Janney, and Jean Reno. Really, it’s a brilliant cast, but almost all the roles are small and confusing. Lisa begs for her virginity to be taken, and has the strangest relationships with her teacher, especially Matt Damon’s character. It’s odd because I feel the characters genuinely care about Lisa, but she really seems to not give a fuck.
Overall, it’s an emotional, character driven thriller that keeps you engaged in the chaos and destruction, even 2 hours in. I loved studying Lisa as she becomes more and more crazy with her emotions. The relationship she has with her mother frequently made me sad as hell. What makes the film so enjoyable is trying to decide what to think of Lisa, and the reasons to why she feels she has to lash out at everyone. The ending will make you slightly angry and say, “what the hell?” but really, you’ll just want to cry and hold Lisa.