Kenneth Lonergan’s “Margaret”

Kenneth Lonergan, who has written a number of plays, has only directed two films, and the newest, Margaret, had its start about seven years ago but has only recently been released on DVD. The package that KDL owns actually includes two versions—the theatrical version on Blu-Ray and the director’s cut (which is a half-hour longer, at 186 minutes) on regular DVD.  I gave in to watching the director’s cut after hearing it praised by a critic on the radio, not really knowing much about it other than what was on the back of the box.

I can’t say this is a film everyone would like, even if it was less than three hours long (which in itself is a challenge). Lisa, the central character (played by Anna Paquin), is a New York City teenager who early on in the film becomes party to a horrific accident involving a bus and a woman she doesn’t know. She is at a tender age, but by the end of the film most would not call her an innocent, and not even a likable person. For the accident changes her, and drives her to exonerate herself, seek some kind of justice for the dead woman, and act out in ways that could only be called dangerous.

But to say that’s a summation of the plot wouldn’t be fair, since by the end the viewer realizes there is a sort of operatic, sweeping canvas being presented that involves not only Lisa but her mother, her father (who lives in California), the dead woman’s friend and perhaps even the culture at large. Sound confusing? Hopefully not, but it should be noted that the film itself has a rather tortured history, and the director had a very hard time deciding on a final cut that was satisfying to both him and his producers. This is important to remember when watching this fascinating, troubling and memorable film.  (The theatrical version is rated R; the director’s cut is unrated but would certainly garner an R rating as well.)


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Written by David


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