The Movie Waffler New Release Review - Margaret | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - Margaret

Directed by: Kenneth Lonergan
Starring: Anna Paquin, J. Smith Cameron, Jeannie Berlin, Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo, Kenneth Lonergan, Jean Reno, Kieran Culkin, Alison Janney, Olivia Thirlby

Following her involvement in a traffic accident which results in a pedestrian's death, high school student Paquin embarks on a crusade to punish the bus driver she initially covered up for.
If Damon and Paquin appear surprisingly fresh-faced it's because Lonergan's follow-up to his excellent 2000 debut "You Can Count On Me" was actually shot in 2005. To say it's post-production was troubled is an understatement. The studio insisted on a cut under 150 minutes which the writer-director struggled to deliver. Eventually, with assistance from Martin Scorsese and his editor Thelma Schoonmaker, a cut was presented trimmed down to an exact 150 minutes. By this point however the studio had given up on the movie and it received a miniscule theatrical release before it's eventual DVD release this month. The process took so long that in the seven years since, two of it's producers, Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack, have passed away. The most significant death as far as the film's theme is concerned is that of Osama Bin Laden as Lonergan's film is a thinly veiled metaphor for the war on terror.Paquin plays the over-privileged and over-indulged daughter of a New York stage actress from whom she inherits a heightened and dangerous flair for the dramatic. If the film seems at times as overblown as a DePalma set-piece it's because this is how Paquin sees the world, a place for her to take center stage and cast those around her in a melodrama of her making. Just as Bin Laden became the target of a grieving nation's anger, Ruffalo's bus driver is persecuted by Paquin who is determined to take out her rage on him. At first she is torn by the fact he has a family to care for but this changes when she tracks down the best friend of the victim, the equally solipsistic Berlin, a tightly wound coil of anger. The two hook up like Bush and Blair and set off on their crusade to find the metaphorical WMD's that will make a case against Ruffalo.
Had this met it's original release schedule I doubt Paquin would now be wasting away in a TV show. This is another great performance by a young actress in a year that's seen stellar work from Elizabeth Olsen, Emily Browning and Jennifer Lawrence. Not since "There Will Be Blood" has a lead character been so despicable yet engaging enough to keep you captivated for such a long running time. The supporting ensemble is uniformly brilliant although some, Damon in particular, suffer from the harsh editing.
Like "The Tree of Life", it's clear there's a longer cut out there, a truer expression of it's creator's intent. Scenes are set up which fail to materialise while others are referred to which we haven't witnessed. As with Malick's film I like to think it succeeds precisely because of this ambiguity. The film's melodramatic climax benefits wholly from this uncertainty, leaving us confused as to the authenticity of Paquin's emotional catharsis. This abstruseness will no doubt turn off the majority of viewers. The rest of us will be entirely grateful that we can experience this near masterpiece in some shape.
Margaret (2011) on IMDb 6.6/10