A woman's life is derailed en route to a potentially lucrative summer job. When her car breaks down, and her dog is taken to the pound, the thin fabric of her financial situation comes ... See full summary »
Margaret centers on a 17-year-old New York City high-school student who feels certain that she inadvertently played a role in a traffic accident that has claimed a woman's life. In her attempts to set things right she meets with opposition at every step. Torn apart with frustration, she begins emotionally brutalizing her family, her friends, her teachers, and most of all, herself. She has been confronted quite unexpectedly with a basic truth: that her youthful ideals are on a collision course against the realities and compromises of the adult world. Written by
The travails involved in getting this movie released at all are well enough known by now that the fact that it is a flawed masterpiece shouldn't come as a surprise. Above all, it is a masterclass in how to write dialogue. Virtually every character is given a credible and compelling voice, from the bus driver to the lawyer, from the mother's suitor to Lisa's "boyfriend". As the father of a daughter, now in her early 20's, I can say that Lisa Cohen's character is as realistic a portrayal of the insecurities and self-righteousness of female adolescence as I have seen. All aspiring screenwriters should be forced to watch this movie and then be given a 3-hour oral and written exam before being allowed to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard).
The acting is also superb. The feel is more of a stage play, an ensemble piece, than a film. Perhaps the fact that one of the characters - Lisa's mother - is a stage actress struggling to support her daughter is partially responsible. But you can tell that this team of seasoned actors relished the opportunity to stretch out with an intelligent well-written script and a supportive director.
The only flaw in Margaret has already been well expressed by others. The film does meander and, while I recognize that this is partly the point of the exercise, there are times at which you long for a more conventional, and taut, storyline. I would gladly have spent more time in the company of these well-drawn, articulate and interesting people. Maybe next time HBO wants to do a miniseries it will let Kenneth Lonergan loose on a story rather than subject us to another preachy, wordy effort from Aaron Sorkin.
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