Margaret (2011)

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.

Summarising: Exhausting.

*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.


  1. I really loved this movie. Yes, one could raise the point why no one’s sending Margaret to a shrink, but still I really felt for her. And the relationship with her mother was spot-on. I especially loved their huge fight scene, with felt real in a way that we hardly get to see in movies. I firmly believe that you don’t have to agree with her plan to sue the bus driver of with her motivation for doing it in order to enjoy the movie, and/or to feel for her. Anna Paquins performance was absolutely stunning, and the best I’ve seen last year (narrowly surpassing Elizabeth Olsen, Jennifer Lawrence, Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan). Too bad that it only got released on DVD (and not Blu Ray) over here, and that we also don’t get to see the director’s cut (which probably would be like agony for you, given that it’s even half an hour longer ;-) ). Overall, can’t really agree with you here.

    • Augh, a version that is even half an hour longer? Haven’t we already seen every street corner of New York in this version? ^_^
      Yes, you’re right that would be agony for me.

      Anna Paquin really wasn’t bad, but she was totally miscast. She just looked way too old. It was irritating.

      But what we agree on is that the relationship dynamic between Lisa and her mom were great.

      • Way too old? Come on, it’s not the first time that Hollywood casts an actress in their mid-20s (she shot this when she was about 25; it was just sitting on a shelf for so long). And while there are a few very talented and very young actresses out there who may have been able to nail the part (Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Lawrence and Carey Mulligan come to mind – but the later two weren’t really known yet in 2008), being a little older also means being a little more experienced, and thus (maybe/hopefully) better at what you’re doing. So while there are definitely roles where a slightly too old actor/actress can be irritating, because it seems unnecessary (high school-comedies f.e.), in this case I find the choice warranted.

        • Of course it’s not the first time that Hollywood casts an older actress in a teenaged role. I watch a lot of teenage drama TV shows where that’s always the case – I’m used to that. But Anna Paquin looks older than most of these actors do. Plus, by casting a lot of actors around her that actually look like teenagers, that just enhanced the effect and it wasn’t believable anymore. So, if you wanna go for the older actresses in the younger roles, at least make it consistent.

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