Director: Kenneth Lonergan
Writer: Kenneth Lonergan
Cast: Anna Paquin, J. Smith-Cameron, Jeannie Berlin, Mark Ruffalo, Matt Damon, Jean Reno, Allison Janney, Kieran Culkin, Rosemarie DeWitt, Matthew Broderick, Olivia Thirlby, Matt Bush, Michael Ealy
Part of: Viennale
Lisa (Anna Paquin) is a normal teenager until the day she co-causes a bus accident by distracting the driver (Mark Ruffalo). The bus hits and kills Monica (Allison Janney), leaving Lisa distraught and unsettled. Unable to find another outlet for her feelings of guilt, she gets on a crusade to get recompensation for Monica’s death, while everything around her keeps spiraling out of control.
Margaret is 2 1/2 hours long and you get to feel every minute of it.* It’s 2 1/2 hours of an hysteric teenager and emotionally incompetent adults, a combination that is at the same time boring and nerve-wrecking. What it isn’t, is enjoyable.
It is quite an achievement for Lonergan to have written a movie where all the characters were so equally annoying and so incredibly incompetent. I know that since my family works in the field, I might be quicker to the thought than other people, but why nobody realized that Lisa is in desperate need of psychological/therapeutic support, I will never get. She witnessed a traumatic event that alone would be indication enough for me to send her to therapy. But she’s so obviously not doing well that it was just insanity that nobody would even suggest it.
Lisa’s mother (J. Smith-Cameron), as well-intentioned as she is and as generally true as the relationship between her and Lisa rang, was absolutely unhelpful, as were all the other adults around her. And it made me mad like hell.
Anna Paquin played her heart out, but honestly, she was just too old for the role. Especially since they cast younger people that looked more like teenagers all around her in her classes. But apart from that, the cast was really good.
The movie did have some very strong scenes, but there just weren’t enough of them for the length of the film. Maybe if the entire thing had been shortened and some of the hysterics cut down and a therapist introduced into the whole thing, it would have worked better. But as is, it was just tedious.
*In fact, the film starts off with a lot of people moving around the streets of New York in slow motion. Teashoe, who was with me, joked during the opening credits, “now I know why the film is so long.” Little did we know at the time that that was actually the reason as there are so many damn shots of New York and people walking and skyline that it drove me to utter frustration.