Complex, star-studded and gripping, Margaret had serious potential for award contention - back when it was made in 2007. Five years later, the drama arrives on DVD and Blu-ray with a whimper, a victim of multiple edits, lawsuits and rumors. The final result, a 150-minute epic, is a paradox: it is simultaneously incredible and a muddled mess.
Margaret stars Anna Paquin as - no, not Margaret - Lisa Cohen, a troubled 17-year-old girl who likes drama and is beginning to experiment with the opposite sex. After she witnesses - and inadvertently causes - a horrible bus accident that leaves a woman dead, she sets out to ensure the driver (Mark Ruffalo) is punished for his negligence.
Matt Damon, J. Smith Cameron, Kieran Culkin, Jean Reno and Matthew Broderick also star.
Margaret is an amalgam of ideas and themes that writer/director Kenneth Lonergan brings oh so close to success. If only he could have figured out how to edit what must have been countless hours of footage - the final cut, while approved by the You Can Count on Me director, was delivered by Martin Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker - the movie would have been a grand experience.
As is, Margaret plays out like an opera, flowing, engaging and emotional. But it also feels disjointed at times, a drama where the primary characters, while interesting, become increasingly more annoying as time progresses.
Paquin turns in a powerful performance as Lisa, but Lisa is an obnoxious bitch who lives in her own self-deluded world. That's the intent - her character is crafted with extreme detail and a long and meticulous arc that culminates in a strong final scene - but at times you just want to strangle her. Her fixation on ruining a man's life - even though she is just as responsible for the woman's death as he is - is hard to grasp.
Emily, though played well by Jeannie Berlin, is a frustratingly abrasive character, too.
Because of the characters, there are moments that are hard to bear, but there are others that are beautiful and mesmerizing.
Lonergan bit off more than he could chew, but he directed a great albeit overly complex story. Even the likes of Scorsese and Schoonmaker couldn't save Margaret. Not entirely. Still, despite its flaws, Margaret is a movie worth experiencing.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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