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10/10
'Margaret, are you grieving?...It is Margaret you mourn for.' Gerald Manley Hopkins
gradyharp12 July 2012
MARGARET is and has been a troubled movie - sophisticated examination of one girl's post- traumatic transformation as part of a larger point about how one's notion of importance is dwarfed by the larger worldview. Written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan and shot in 2005 as a three-hour film, the movie has remained on the shelves since its completion in 2007 over legal problems and finally is available for viewing in a 150-minute version. Though it has flaws it contains some of the most sophisticated dialogue and philosophical points about where we are in our society today that the editing glitches become secondary background noise in a compelling film. The title (no one in the film is named Margaret) references the Gerald Manley Hopkins poem 'Spring and Fall: to a young child' which is quoted at the top of this review.

MARGARET focuses on a 17-year-old New York City high-school student Lisa (Anna Paquin) who feels certain that she inadvertently played a role in a traffic accident that has claimed a woman's life, Monica (Allison Janney): Lisa was chasing a bus whose driver Maretti (Mark Ruffalo) ran a red light because of Lisa's distraction trying to discover where the Maretti bought his cowboy hat. Monica dies in Lisa's arms while asking for her daughter also named Lisa (we later learn Monica's daughter died at age 12 from leukemia). Lisa at first feels sorry for Maretti, thinking that if she tells the truth Maretti will loose his job and his family support. Lisa's actress mother Joan (J. Smith-Cameron) encourages her to not give accurate testimony to the police, a decision Lisa follows and spends the rest of the film regretting, and in making 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.

The world that Lisa occupies includes teachers - played by Matt Damon (who crosses a forbidden line when Lisa seeks his advice as the only truly adult man she knows, Matthew Broderick whose class discussions over literature are brittle and acerbic and deeply disturbing - her introduction to adolescent needs and physical incidents at the hands of John Gallagher, Jr. (now of The Newsroom fame), Paul (Kieran Culkin) - her relationship with her needy single mother Joan whose newly dating Ramon (Jean Reno), her contact with the deceased's friend Emily (Jeannie Berlin - brilliant), and the deceased's only family - all in an attempt to somehow set things right but Lisa admitting that she is as responsible for Monica's death as is Maretti. But the world outside can't cope with anything but financial compensation as the resolution to Lisa's angst.

There are many other characters brought to life by some VERY fine actors and the stunning musical score by Nico Muhly includes moments at the Metropolitan Opera where we actually get to see and hear Christine Goerke as Bellini's Norma singing 'Casta Diva' and Renée Fleming and Susan Graham singing the Barcarolle from Offenbach's Tales of Hoffman, allowing the opening and closing of the film to be accompanied by a quiet guitar piece, as well as proving Muhly's very highly accomplished music to underscore the moods of the film. The cinematography by Ryszard Lenczewski underlines the tension - form the imagery of slow motion crowd movement in New York during the opening sequences to the stabilization of important encounters between the characters. A lot is said and screamed and the level of communication and actions by Anna Paquin's Lisa alienate the audience at times, but the film makes some very solid statements about how we are acidly interacting or not connecting in our current state of society. That deserves attention. The film requires a lot form the audience, but in this viewer's mind it is well worth the time.

Grady Harp
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1/10
Makes You Wish that the Bus Hit You
ligonlaw8 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
With the A-list cast, it is incredible that no one noticed that this film makes very little sense.

There is so much wrong with it, it is hard to begin. Scenes run on and on without advancing the story. Scenes are cut without reason. This film is badly in need of editing. Margaret is a very long movie with very little story to tell.

The story wanders everywhere. It is essentially a story about a 17-year- old woman, Lisa Cohen, who is partly responsible for the death of a pedestrian in New York City. The heroine, played by Anna Paquin, is annoying from the beginning when she is caught cheating on her math exam by her teacher, played by Matt Damon. He indulges her belief that she is entitled to do so.

Later that day she distracts a bus driver, played by Mark Ruffalo, in order to find out where he bought his cowboy hat. Instead of watching where he is going, the driver kills a woman in the crosswalk. The woman dies in Lisa's arms. She lies to the investigating officer at the scene and reports that the bus had the green light. She later experiences the discomfort of guilt.

The rest of the film involved this young woman making a nuisance of herself to pretty much everyone she meets. She changes her story. She wants to meet the family of everyone involved in the tragic death. She wants the bus driver fired. She wants to move to California to live with her father. She has sex for the first time without really knowing her partner. She tries to have sex with her teacher at school. She argues with everyone.

Jean Reno adds contrast to the ensemble. He plays a nice, interesting man who injects a little reason and depth to the story, so you know he has to die unexpectedly so that there are no agreeable people left in story.

The script is about unhappy, ethically-challenged, unpleasant people bickering about morality, about Israel and Palestine, about whatever, and then there is psychobabble. These people go after each other at the slightest provocation.

At some point, a civil lawyer is retained. The lawsuit makes no sense. The involvement of the heroine, who was partly responsible for the death, in every aspect of the suit goes beyond incredible. The beneficiaries of the suit lie about how much they liked the dead woman. The lawyer encourages this. There are speeches about morality made by people aren't very moral.

It is a long, long movie that makes you wish you were hit by the bus instead.
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10/10
A tragic accident sends one New York City teenager into the throws of a moral dilemma which serves as a catalyst for her own transformation
abneuman27 July 2006
A truly heart wrenching story, "Margaret" reiterates Kenneth Lonergan's gifts for dialogue, story, and his ability to treat the most dramatic themes with artful humor, awareness and perception. The acting is exceptional; even relatively small parts, (played by actors such as Matthew Broderick, Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo, and Allison Janey) showcase both the actors' own remarkable abilities as well as Lonergan's attention to detail. It is Matthew Broderick's character who is the only one to utter the movie's title as he recites a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins. J. Smith Cameron and Anna Paquin, who play mother and daughter, both deliver fierce performances which form the relationship that serves as the backbone of the film. Taking on issues from abortion, divorce, and death to the inherent isolation of being human, the movie has a life and humor to it which cannot be brought down by the weightiness of these issues.
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3/10
Protect Your Snout
Cinnyaste1 July 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Note: This review reflects the 149 minute version.

A privileged New York high school junior literally shepherds a dying woman to the other side after she's hit by a bus. The driver, distracted by the junior, Lisa (Paquin), runs a red light and flattens the woman. "Margaret" is Lisa's reconciliation of a youthful outlook to one more adult. It's a premise sounding far more promising than the result.

The title derives from the Hopkins' poem, "Spring and Fall" (1880)

"To a young child

Margaret, are you grieving / Over Goldengrove unleaving? / Leaves, like the things of man, you / With your fresh thoughts care for, can you? / Ah! as the heart grows older / It will come to such sights colder. . ."

A talented filmmaker, Mr. Lonergan crafted "You Can Count On Me," a sharply observed tale of two siblings in crisis. He also wrote the entertaining yet trivial "Analyze This," "Analyze That," and the disappointing "Gangs of New York." "Margaret" is an attempt to thumb his nose at those trivialities. Instead, he rubs intellectual snobbery and pretense into the audience's nose; the attempt at drawing parallels between Lisa's quest and world politics arrives at the table still raw and is uncomfortably didactic.

Some reviewers crowed, "Masterpiece! Masterpiece!" ("The New York Times" printed a feature article about "Margaret.") A troubled history and abysmal box office are the counterpoints. While at times masterful and somewhat intriguing, "Margaret" is, at its gooey center, an overlong meander with a theme cobbed from a poem. One wonders what the 36 additional minutes in Lonergan's cut (for an astonishing, snoozy 185 minutes) add to this already plodding misfire.

The completion of this film has been the subject of a few lawsuits. The legal wrangling led to a film wrested from Lonergan's hands to be edited by Schoonmaker and Scorcese. Fear not, Masochists. The DVD features both cuts.

Wasted! Wasted! Wasted! Broderick, Damon, Reno, Ruffalo, Janney (particularly the wonderful Janney - the accident victim). The hapless characters could easily have been handled by lesser-knowns for the material is far too shallow for the combined star power. Adding insult, Lonergan wrote himself in as the divorced dad living on the left coast. His scenes are beyond expendable.

Paquin does fine, yet, at 24, she's long-in-the-tooth to be believable as a 17 year old (at first glance she appears passable as a college junior). There are fireworks between Lisa and her mother, an excellent J. Smith-Cameron. However, they become shrill and muddied through repetition.

This script was in process for many years (and exhibits the associated constipation).

There's an unspoken trust between filmmaker and audience. The expectation is the story has clarity and a through-line to reward we popcorn munchers in the dark. Mr. Lonergan broke the trust through reversal by expecting the audience to help him understand "Margaret." If this is where Lonergan is headed as a Director, authoring "Analyze The Other Thing" should be the next entry on his resume.
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9/10
Hope opera
rooee21 December 2011
On the day of its cinema release, Kenneth Lonergan's long-gestating drama was the most successful film in the UK. Problem was, it only opened on one screen. The story of Margaret's production is likely a fascinating story in itself, not least because of Martin Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker's input into the final edit, which was presumably a return favour for Lonergan's work on the screenplay for Gangs of New York. But I'll focus on the fascinating story that Lonergan has told with this film.

Ostensibly the tale centres on a New York schoolgirl named Lisa (Anna Paquin, defining her young adulthood just as she defined herself in childhood with The Piano), who inadvertently causes a fatal road accident. What follows is the emotional aftermath, fought outwardly with her mother, as a moral and ethical war wages within her hormone-ravaged body.

The performances are excellent throughout, particularly Paquin and J. Smith-Cameron as the daughter and mother caught in gravitational flux. Jean Reno gives fine support as the sad-sack Ramon, while Matthew Broderick delivers the poem (by Gerard Manley Hopkins) that provides the film's title, while suggesting the entire life of his character by the way he eats a sandwich. It's that kind of film.

I recently wrote a review of Winter's Bone, which I described as an anti-youth movie. Margaret could be a companion piece in this regard, cautioning against the bright-eyed naivety of youthful independence, and promoting the importance of family. Like Winter's Ree, Lisa is a lost soul; unlike Ree, Lisa is not someone we admire. But she is always in focus; Lonergan expects not for us to like her, only to understand her. In maintaining this focus, Lonergan himself achieves the admirable: weaving a narrative whose minute details and labyrinthine arguments mirror the broader existential vista against which they are dwarfed.

Margaret goes deeper than Winter's Bone, delivering something pleasingly unexpected: a kind of Sartrean modern fable about the isolating nature of subjectivity. Like her actor mother on the stage, and like us all in our semi-waking lives, Lisa is the main player in her great opera. She performs the social functions that enable her to cling to a sense of belongingness, but something gnaws at her soul. And when, after the accident, she seeks some kind of meaning, she is met at once by indifference, before being seduced by those very institutions that make indifference normal. Nothing in the material world satisfies Lisa; nothing can match her aspirations. The suggestion here, I feel, is that our despair emerges from the disparity between that which we hope for and that which reality can deliver.

No wonder it took so long to find its way to a single UK screen: a three-hour existentialist play is a tough sell. Ten years after the towers sank to Ground Zero, Margaret joins There Will Be Blood, The Assassination of Richard Nixon, and (for some) Zodiac in the pantheon of modern classics that map the American psyche in the post-9/11 world.
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9/10
A masterclass in dialogue with wonderful acting
RolyRoly30 July 2012
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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6/10
Sprawling Cassavettes Like Tale Of Anguished Young Woman's Guilt
Matthew Stechel20 January 2012
The film is just over two and a half hours long and while it doesn't fly on by--it doesn't slowly crawl on by either. There are a lot of scenes that flow really really nicely into other scenes that might not have to do with the main plot line but seem to belong in the movie all the same. I can kind of see why the writer/director had trouble trimming it even at two and a half hours, its hard to tell where or what to trim since the main plot line of the movie isn't really the point so much as all the establishing things that contribute to Lisa's mood and state of mind as the movie progresses. (i think) If you're reading this you probably already know the main plot line--teenage girl Lisa causes massive bus accident resulting in a single death, and spends the rest of the movie both breaking down emotionally and trying to right what she feels she did wrong. (the accident is really, really not entirely her fault, but she feels enormous guilt just the same as she should) Anna Paquin gives an incredible performance here--i don't just mean that Paguin's performance is really emotional (which it is)--or that she feels like a real life teenager here (so confident in her rightness, so prone to outbursts when her rightness isn't so right) i mean that Paquin's performance really, pretty much completely single-handedly holds this entire jumble together into one coherent narrative--and for that she's almost like Kenneth Lonnigran's equivalent to Ben Gazzara here. We follow her as she runs into all sorts of people, and we follow her thru all of her mood swings and somewhat pointless arguments that she picks with some of these people, and completely well reasoned arguments that she picks with others...she's the kind of well intentioned but guilt racked protaginist you would expect to find in a novel or a play, or maybe a really good ongoing TV series--but definitely not a film with a definitive arc which is what makes her character that much more surprising.

The film really did call to mind some of John Cassavettes' films in both its rambling yet always moving forward (but never exactly straight forward) narrative and the many, many set pieces consisting of minute characters just talking....not to mention all the natrualistic scenes of Lisa just hanging out in her element. (meaning in school, with friends, arguing with her mom, etc) Movie is very very dialog heavy and yet somehow it never comes across as trying to strong-arm you into a specific point of view, at least until the last half hour or so--as its main character eventually and forcefully takes one on of her own.

This is a movie that for all of its strengths has plenty of weaknesses in it as well. For one thing I'm not sure what the heck Jean Reno is doing here exactly. I'm only slightly less curious about what the heck Matt Damon is doing here also. (was he supposed to be Lisa's moral compass? because his character doesn't really make any sense really. If there's one character who seems like he should have had more screen time it would have to be him) i'm not enitrely sure why we keep cutting back to Matthew Broderick who outside the scenes of him moderating English class debates (?!?!) doesn't seem to have much of a character to play. i'm not entirely sure the ending justified the extreme buildup--i'm also not sure how realistic that ending decision actually is either, but i'll let that go just because the movie had to have an ending. Even tho I enjoyed the constant cutting back to Lisa's mom's storyline (J Smith Cameron is pretty good here too i should point out)--i'm not even sure all of that was necessary to tell Lisa's story so thoroughly--even if the relationship between the mom and the daughter i think is supposed to be the backbone of the movie...and yet with all of these questionable elements just kind of thrown on in there one on top of the other, (like they're all so tightly wound together that it would be hard to pick one off without feeling like something was missing i should add)--- the movie does remain really quite watchable right up until the end--anchored very nicely by the excellent work of Anna Paquin so really that's a feat just by itself i think. This is a film that will be overrated by some, and too easily dismissed by many others...yet this definitely is a challenging film and one that i think should make a pretty good civics lesson to some high school/college students in the years ahead--provided schools are still teaching civics in the years ahead.
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Lollygagging with Lonergan
tieman6415 July 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This is a review of "You Can Count On Me" and "Margaret", two excellent films written and directed by playwright Kenneth Lonergan.

Released in 2000, "You Can Count On Me" stars Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo as Sammy and Terry, two siblings whose lives have been affected by a family tragedy. Sammy lives alone with her son Rudy (Rory Culkin), whilst Terry's a drifter who lives on the road. When Terry moves in with the duo, he begins to form a bond with Sammy's kid. Sounds formulaic? It's not. Lonergan dodges clichés like crazy, conveys a certain emotional complexity, and delights in subtly setting up and then overturning expectations.

In this regard, Terry is initially portrayed as a delinquent with no gifts, responsibilities or direction. Sammy, meanwhile, is portrayed as a strong, steadfast, stable Mom who has life by the reigns. Cleverly, however, Lonergan questions these narrow assumptions. Terry begins to reveal himself as a perceptive guy, becomes a surrogate father to young Rudy and reveals various talents. Sammy, meanwhile, unravels before our eyes.

Both Ruffalo and Linney turn in excellent work. Ruffalo consciously mimics a young Brando, but is more wounded, more inwardly tortured. Like most of Ruffalo's characters, his Terry is a quiet, sexily melancholic guy. Linney, meanwhile, paints Sammy as a bristly, tightly wound woman. Both characters engage in rituals of denial, burying their pain, engaging in flights of fancy and never discussing "things" directly.

More ambitious than "You Can Count On Me" is Lonergan's "Margaret", a deliberately lurid melodrama. The film stars Anna Paquin as Lisa, a precocious teenager who lives a life of privilege in New York City. When Lisa distracts a bus driver (Mark Ruffalo), this leads to a traffic accident and the death of a young woman. From here on, Lisa attempts to get the bus driver incarcerated, pursuing an idea of justice that's designed to expiate her guilt, though unconsciously she desires to draw attention to her own crimes.

The film abounds with complex little moments. Lisa appears like a rude idiot in some of her school classes, but like a passionate, intelligent girl in others. She appears sexually mature and confident in some sequences, but hopelessly inexperienced in others. A mercurial force, Lisa purses everything with a sense of vengeance, though her roiling, emerging sense of self is also frequently humbled, as she spends much of the film dealing with her own insecurities, limitations and nagging conscience. Lonergan thus manages a strange juggling act; Lisa the hurricane, Lisa the mouse. He then applies these wild polar shifts to other characters. One kid, for example, played by Kieran Culkin, seems cool as a cucumber, until we learn he's sexually incompetent. School teachers (Matt Damon) and various other adult characters are given similar treatments.

Elsewhere the film centres on Lisa's beleaguered single mother, a successful stage actress. Lisa attacks her mother for attending "boring Opera productions", in which "stupid people just want to prove how loud they can sing", without realising that she herself embraces an operatic vision of life. For Lisa, Lisa is the centre of the universe, Lisa's dilemmas matter, Lisa's trapped in a grandiose web. Lonergan thus has Lisa's daily troubles and emotional catharses – indeed, the whole aesthetic of his film - echo the operatic form. He then mirrors Lisa's operatic self-centredness with the quieter, more mature world-views of older characters. Reserved, bottled-up and more generous than Lisa, these are characters who have learnt what every teenager eventually learns: you are not the centre of the universe. Other people matter. But Lonergan also sympathises with Lisa. Her private operas also matter. From these contradictions then spring various exchanges about anti-Semitism and so forth. In "Margaret", everyone has their own opera, they just approach the sound-stage with different levels of jadedness.

Incidentally, the film's title refers to the person addressed in Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem, "Spring and Fall". That poem was about a girl called Margaret who is shocked to realise that all the beautiful trees around her are experiencing a form of death and decay. As Margaret's innocence crumbles, the poem then mocks her for mourning leaves whilst being ignorant to the plights of human beings. It then argues that as she grows older, Margaret's understanding will grow, until she'll be able to see the death of leaves and things in "other worlds" as well.

The poem thus concisely embodies Lonergan themes: how rational minds are prone to irrationality, how emotional storms are both warranted and supremely narcissistic, how moral behaviour is oft made difficult, how private traumas and complications routinely go unnoticed by others, how everyone engages in fantasy projection, how indifference functions as both a kind of maturity and cold-heartedness, how being good and wishing to be seen "being good" differ, how morality is necessary but seems limited and trite in the face of greater injustices, how suffering seems relative, the difference between intellectually knowing and physically experiencing, the imperfections of people and the world itself etc etc.

Aesthetically, "You Can Count On Me" is the more conventional of the two films. "Margaret", meanwhile, is shot with a certain Olympian grandeur, everything big and bombastic, Lonegan's stance magisterial and overcooked by design. The film had a troubled post-production history, spending five years in editing rooms, civil courts and without release. When it finally hit cinema screens, nearly half a decade after it was shot, it was hailed as a masterpiece by several directors, most notably Martin Scorsese. Several cuts of the film exist. Lonergan's preferred cut is roughly three hours long.

8.9/10 – See "Everything Must Go", "Ghost World", "The Yellow Hankerchief" and "Frozen River". Worth two viewings.
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8/10
A painfully brilliant journey to the emotional center of a Post-9/11 Earth
Serge_Zehnder22 October 2012
To summarize "Margaret" would be like summarizing a pond in a forest. It is about all things at once and one thing in particular. Add to this confusion the observation that what this "one thing in particular" is depends on the viewers individual point of view.

To read that Kenneth Lonergans second movie was fraught with troubles on the productive as well as the creative end somehow doesn't seem to be surprising after you've watched it.

"Margaret" is, not unlike its heroine Lisa Cohen (an astounding accomplishment by Anna Paquin), a very uncompromising film. It gives us a sense, and almost an overall conclusion of the first decade of the 21st century. A decade of fear, grieve, revenge, blame, hypocritical use of political correctness and ultimately a decade of deep sadness about what the madness on both sides turned the world into.

It is also an unflinching look at the way society and life somehow seem at odds with each-other. The basic premise of a high school girl whose involvement in an accident leads her on a difficult journey to find her own and the worlds moral center, is very much emblematic of how the western world started to confront outside forces from other societies and the random nature of how the balance of power can shift into unchartered waters.

Roger Ebert once wrote about Oliver Stone's JFK: "(It) is a brilliant reflection of our unease and paranoia, our restless dissatisfaction." He surmised that this movie wasn't about facts but about an emotional state.

In a calm, brilliantly acted and superbly crafted movie, Lonergan achieves a similar feat. He produced a movie about our present, and through it shows that the emotional state of this past decade will linger on for a long time.

Whatever our political views, our perception of right and wrong, our moral values and ultimately our failings as human beings are, Lonergan shows, as he did with "You Can Count On Me", that to accept that we are human and have a need for resolution and redemption in places where none is to be found, may turn not the world at large, but the one in us, towards a better tomorrow.

In the years after September 11th I sometimes had to think about the last line of Alan Pakula's film "Presumed Innocent": "There was a crime. There was a victim. And there is *punishment*. "

"Margaret" to me is about that punishment. Our need for it, and the pain it causes those who exact it.
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3/10
Stressful cinema you can do without
Greig21 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
For me it was more of a stressful experience than sitting and enjoying a movie. The cast boasts Anna Paquin (of True Blood fame), Hollywood heavyweight Matt Damon, Jean Reno from Leon and Matthew Broderick. I've got a real soft spot for Broderick because of Election, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off is one of my favourite films, but even the presence of the righteous dude couldn't redeem this film for me. Mark Ruffalo is a favourite of mine too (Shutter Island, The Kids Are Alright, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). Ruffalo, Damon and Broderick are scarcely in the film though. It's really all about Lisa: a hormonal teenager who seeks to satisfy her insatiable desire for conflict and drama by pestering all of the people who were involved or affected by a horrific bus accident that she witnessed. Paquin gives a powerful and convincing performance throughout so you can't really blame her for the films failure. You can't simply blame the fact that the character is especially detestable either – we've seen anti-heroes and super villains time and time again in cinema, and they can be some of the most engrossing characters to watch. The film's problem is that it focuses entirely on this high-strung, volatile, bitchy adolescent as she goes about a mundane course of day-to-day life, seeking attention and rubbing people up the wrong way. There's no real point to all this. The conclusion resolves to say nothing more than "she's probably like this because of her age and she doesn't get along with her mum" or something. Margaret is nothing more than a character study of a stereotypically hostile, obnoxious teenager. There's no clear controlling idea, it wallows in ambiguity and the attempts to reference Shakespeare are laughably pretentious. It's too long, entirely stressful to sit through and has no real payoff at the end.
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great movie
jamesdamnbrown.com/movies20 February 2012
Margaret is a well written coming of age drama, but the protagonist is not a sympathetic character, which is going to alienate a lot of the audience right off the bat. The girl behind me as I left the theater didn't like it, telling her friend, "I just couldn't stand Anna Paquin's character." The screenplay is deft at shorthanding idiosyncratic, complicated personalities with naturalistic dialogue. It also helps that every role in the film, including almost every minor part, is cast with a top notch actor. But for all the big Hollywood names, my props go to J. Smith-Cameron for a theater-grade performance scaled down to fit the intimacy of a close up shot. The movie explores the milieu of affluent teenagers attending an upscale school in New York City, and one of the other reviewers here is right in saying it resembles a French film in that it takes an mature approach to depicting adolescents, showing them as smart, complicated, sexual, uncertain. Most mainstream reviewers seem puzzled as to what they should think about it. I think it's over their heads, the elliptical, dialogue heavy, character driven narrative style, as well as the lack of an easy, simple take-away moral, seems to have befuddled them. Maybe we should rope in some theater critics' opinions instead.
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9/10
Another winner from Lonergan
eucalyptus920 March 2013
Margaret has 2 especially good things going for it. One is that it's written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan, who did such a good job with You Can Count On Me. The latter had sharp, incisive, perceptive dialog which was at times laugh-out-loud funny. I didn't find myself laughing very often while viewing Margaret, but the dialog was just as sharp.

The other great thing in its favour is that it has Anna Paquin. I thought she was outstanding as the young child in The Piano, but haven't been over-impressed by anything I've seen her in since. Until Margaret, that is. The way she folds and involves the viewer into her exceedingly complex character was terrific, reminiscent of Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone.

The film itself is long, sometimes quite slow, but totally involving. I watched a couple of hours, thought I'd watch the rest the next night, then 10 minutes later turned it back on to watch the final hour. During most 90 minute films, I'm checking my watch to see how long there is to go, so this was a sure sign of how good a movie Margaret was.

I'm not sure I fully understand the movie. All of the characters are frail and their flaws easily come to the surface, which makes sympathizing with any of them too much somewhat difficult. But I guess that is the point - they're real people, like the rest of us. The child Curtis is probably the most sympathetic character. He's ignored by his mother, dismissed by his father, and seems to exist only as a source of irritation to Lisa. I guess that's a real situation too.

Margaret is a thought provoking film, that probably warrants a second viewing (all 3 hours of it - gulp) to pick up on its subtleties and nuances. I gave it 9/10.
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9/10
untolerance by JD salinger
tony randall15 August 2012
Warning: Spoilers
god i love it when i find a movie i know nothing about and it has me in its grip after 15 minutes.Anna paquin gives the performance of the decade as an upper class NYC Jewish girl who shares part of the blame for a fatal bus accident.paquin plays it large-her character is a quasi- existentialist with Buddhist leanings,liberal,idealistic and a raging hormone machine.she's that typical teenage mixture of angsty self righteousness and completely self absorbed asshole,delicate,sensitive yet will go for throat at the drop of a hat...and she would've fit in nicely with salinger's glass family.or maybe Wes Anderson's tanenbaums..the movie plays like a novel-rich characters (the woman who plays her mother deserves some kind of award and the woman who plays the victim's best friend is equally brilliant)-and like real life at the same time- conversations interrupted,people speaking over people-director lonergan frequently mixes background conversations at the same volume as the main characters.it just feels like NYC...Lisa Cohen is one of the great modern day characters...
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8/10
No easy answers, no easy cynicism
naun25 February 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This is one of those films which have so much heart that their flaws hardly matter. The film's main character is a young woman, no angel herself, who is confronted with the hypocrisy of the adult world in the aftermath of a traffic accident. That sounds like a recipe for a conventional and sentimental morality tale, but this film is anything but that. Instead it pits its young protagonist against a circle of elders who have in their different ways accommodated themselves to life's hard realities. She holds on tenaciously to what most of them lost long ago, her passion and rage and a burning desire for justice. But along the way she makes her own compromises, and her victory, if that's what it is, is both hard-won and deeply equivocal.

This film shares with director Kenneth Lonergan's previous film, You Can Count on Me, a gentle and amused but unflinching view of human nature. The vision here, though, is much darker. The film tends to proceed on the assumption that conflict in human relationships must erupt sooner or later in confrontation, and this results in a film with a somewhat episodic structure and rather a lot of shouting matches. The film nevertheless wins our trust by caring enough not to fob us off with easy answers or easy cynicism. It does not even give us a particularly sympathetic heroine to identify with, only a flawed human being who will have to come to terms with her mistakes like everyone else. A film like this wouldn't work without individual and ensemble acting of the greatest intensity and honesty, and that's what it has.

The title, by the way, is a reference to a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem that is quoted in the course of the film. Another poem comes to mind, the one by Yeats that goes, "But I am old and you are young/And I speak a barbarous tongue".
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1/10
Who wrote this mess?
kisami77724 October 2012
I never known of a another movie that I've watched that I hated the female characters so much. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth. I can only guess that the writer wants females to come across as horrible, nagging, b's, while the guys are the easy going common sense individuals. There is no way I can see anyone giving this movie more than one star and even that's far reaching.

In addition, the movie doesn't even make sense. You have a girl running along the side of a bus repeatedly trying to get the bus drivers attention to the point where I thought she was going to run into a pole, and she then goes on a one man crusade to get him arrested for something she caused.
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8/10
Paquin is astonishing, the whole scenario portrayed with unattractive grit. Great!
secondtake26 September 2012
Margaret (2011)

A terrific, evolving, and in-obvious story line mixed with a lead performance by Anna Paquin to die for makes "Margaret" fabulous. See it for her performance alone.

If you think this is a new movie you'll notice some famous actors who look rather young--Matt Damon in particular in his role as a likable high school teacher. That's because it was filmed in 2005 (and got held up in post-production). Even so it doesn't feel dated. The main themes hold up really well, and are told with unusually frank terms. Many people really are just greedy and selfish at heart.

The key event happens early on and in a way can't even be mentioned here. But it's safe to say that Paquin, who's character is called Lisa Cohen, at first takes a false stance in a moment of crisis and compassion. But the truth of the matter eats at her, and against the rising tide of people who prefer the lie she becomes increasingly principled. In the end it is almost everyone who is morally corrupt, even in his own way her teacher.

There is one lurking problem to the movie that really hurt it. One is the way the initial crisis is filmed (with Mark Ruffalo as a bus driver). It is exaggerated and makes the circumstances leading to tragedy unlikely just when the rest of the movie depends on likelihood. Since this is the lynchpin of everyone's reactions later on, it matters rather too much to ignore.

But the rest of it, from the main plot and Paquin to the various sub-plots including a romantic affair her mother has and some political conflicts about Arab-Israeli relations and the 9/11 events, is all really sharply delineated and well acted. And it's written with a good ear for dialog. It simply makes sense. The fact that there is no silver lining here, and that people are shown so obviously ugly below the surface, is harder to do than you might think. All admirable stuff.
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1/10
3 hours wasted
imdb-486-41731126 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is 3 hours long which is already a bad starting point for a story. It seems to go around and around about a girl who is disillusioned with society for defending the driver of a coach.

In fact the girl IMHO is completely at fault for the accident. Why run after the coach waving your hands and think this is acceptable behaviour? Any sane person knows this is going to end badly, it's just a pity this girl did not run into another car herself and then we would have been saved the pain of this movie.

She then spends most of the movie trying to get the driver convicted? Finally she sleeps with that fat guy without a condom and gets pregnant...why? She is annoyingly stupid! Why not go for the nicer boy she is seeing?

It's only a story I know, but annoying and drawn out on many levels!
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2/10
One of the worst movies I've ever seen
Stellar Larve24 July 2012
Warning: Spoilers
OK… I am not particularly proud of it, but I had such a boring experience watching this thing I actually created an account just to post this review.

This movie is awful. I just can't believe that anyone could have actually enjoyed it, and get something out of it.

It is one of the most boring, over-played, pompous movie I have ever seen. It is just a pathetically elongated drama who tries very very, very hard to be a metaphorical display of big obnoxious pseudo-intellectual themes, seasoned with an overdose of teenagers hormones and unhappiness. Death, suffering, guilt, absurdity of life, guilt, every big human unanswerable question thrown at the face of this unbearable brat who screams all the time instead of just go and sign for 20 years of therapy or shoot herself. Problem is, Shakespearian drama without the drama… is just a boring overrated portray of a troubled teen.

I suspect the intentions of the filmmakers were to make the viewers think "oooh poor thing, it must be hard to live after such a trauma; yes it is difficult to grow and make life-changing decisions, etc." instead, I just wanted the main character to throw herself under the next bus.

I waited desperately for something interesting to happen, for a twist that would make this whole nonsensical agitation more than a big waste of time… but no. If you are not 13 and right in the middle of "everything is so important I scream all the time and think I am gonna die if you dare contradict me, my life is so miserable you know…", you better pass on this one…
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10/10
a fantastic movie and a sure bet Oscar for best picture and actress
mporde27 January 2007
This movie showcases Lonergan's genius for dialog and his gift for articulating the human predicament. The story, centered around a girl who witnesses a horrible accident (Anna Paquin), is an operatic tour de force. Paquin a and J. Smith Cameron (her mother in the film)\ are absolutely brilliant, and the supporting cast is so strong that this movie should sweep multiple Oscars. Lonergan's pacing and tone are well suited to what is both a heartrending and funny complex drama.The sweeping grandeur of New York City comes across more realistically, and beautifully, than it has in any other recent film. So much of what makes us human is articulated in the movie that everything is real, everything is believable, and one can't help but to be moved to tears, to laughter, and back again. Margaret is a perfect follow up to Lonergan's superb first film You Can Count on Me.
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10/10
A masterpiece!
eddiefieg19 February 2012
"Margaret" is an absolute masterpiece. It's thematically going for the tone of a grandiose opera, but in a modern day context, filtered through the emotions of a teenage girl in association with a tragedy. It expresses the emotional teenage mind-set like no other.

Every performance is astounding and every character it so compelling and fully-realized. I would compare it to the likes of "Requiem for a Dream," "Magnolia," "There Will Be Blood," "Synecdoche, New York," "The Tree of Life," and other movies that tell sprawling emotional melodramas that just hook you in and don't let you go. If you're into that kind of thing, this is for you.

There's no doubt in my mind that if this movie hadn't been tangled up in lawsuits years ago, it would have been a huge Oscar contender and Anna Paquin surely would be winning tons of awards for her performance. It's such a shame that a movie of this size and scope was overlooked.
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8/10
A Film to Take as You Will
doug_park20017 May 2013
MARGARET plays like a good modern novel. The acting, script, and cinematography are incredibly realistic, and the story is intelligently presented without being overly artsy or high-brow.

My take on it: After witnessing and being an unwitting participant in a tragic bus accident, bright, promising, but very frenetic NYC high school senior Lisa Cohen finds it harder than ever to find connection with anyone around her. Ironically, this prevents her from understanding why everyone around her has the same problem. As she says herself during one of the numerous altercations with her rising Broadway actress mother, "People don't relate to each other. . . They're totally disconnected." On this subject, there are a lot of people screaming at each other here, and they usually don't even recall how the screaming began. They always stop screaming before it gets really tiresome, but the fights are crucial to the theme of people just acting out with no attempt to understand or empathize. The very fine acting and dialogue prevent MARGARET from descending into what it could have been: A hackneyed soap opera/New York melodrama of the sort we've seen plenty of times before.

I found Lisa harder and harder to take as the film progressed. Sometimes it seemed that she should be a little less of a selfish "drama queen," but, again, this negative development may be deliberate on the part of the creators and helps pose the question of who's really crazy and who's really sane.

There is a slow, steady tension to this film, plenty of interesting stuff happens, and there are all kinds of meaningful subplots. It often seems to meander, but everything's relevant in the end. Yet, MARGARET is driven more by its various themes than it is by plot or character. I like it because it's so different from most current films; in fact, it's the first recent film I've seen that I'll probably want to see again. Nevertheless, people who just want to be entertained without having to sit back and analyze what they're watching will probably not want to sit through 2.5 hours of this.
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7/10
"Mysterious and consistently involving..."
Sindre Kaspersen15 August 2012
American screenwriter, playwright and director Kenneth Lonergan's second feature film, succeeding his so rightfully acclaimed feature film debut "You Can Count on Me" (2000), which he wrote, premiered in England, was screened in the Horizons section at the 46th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in 2011, shot on locations in USA and is an American production which was produced by producers Gary Gilbert, Scott Rudin and Sydney Pollack (1934-2008). It tells the story about a seventeen-year-old American high school student named Lisa who lives in an apartment in New York, USA with her mother named Joan who is a theater actress and her little brother named Curtis.

Distinctly and engagingly directed by American filmmaker Kenneth Lonergan, this finely paced fictional tale which is narrated from multiple viewpoints though mostly from the main character's point of view, draws a somewhat melodramatic and multifaceted portrayal of an adolescent girl who embarks on a devoted search for justice and closure. While notable for its naturalistic milieu depictions, fine cinematography by Polish cinematographer Ryszard Lenczewski, production design by production designer Dan Leigh, film editing by film editor Anne McCabe and depiction of a mother-daughter relationship, this character-driven and dialog-driven story depicts a pervasive study of character and contains a good score by American composer Nico Muhly.

This humorous and literary coming-of-age drama which was released almost six years after the crew began filming, is impelled and reinforced by its cogent narrative structure, substantial character development, quick-witted dialog and the prominent acting performances by Canadian-New Zealand actress Anna Paquin who is remarkable in a complex role, American actress J. Smith-Cameron, American actress Jeannie Berlin and the fine supporting acting performances by Mark Ruffalo, Matt Damon, Jean Reno, Kieran Culkin and John Gallagher Jr. A mysterious and consistently involving character piece which gained, among other awards, the ALFS Award for Actress of the Year Anna Paquin at the 32nd London Critics Circle Film Awards in 2012.
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1/10
Waste of Time
karawilliams4425 August 2012
I gave this movie a try because of the 6.6 rating. I wish I hadn't bothered. I found this movie to be a complete waste of time.

I kept waiting for a reason to like the heroin, I kept wanting to find a character to like and connect with, but it didn't happen. I watched and waited to be pulled into the story, waiting for the movie to get better, but it didn't.

Things happen that don't move the plot forward, loose ends aren't tied up, characters are self absorbed and unlikeable. Nothing happened to make me care about them. It's hard to understand the origin of the tension between mom and daughter. Characters appear and disappear and you are left wondering what relevance they really had. And in the end I'm left feeling like I've waisted my time.
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8/10
Attention-seeking teenager goes through death, mortality and innocence
napierslogs5 August 2012
"Margaret" took years to get to us, seemingly even longer to play out, but tells a story so poetic and heartbreakingly real that you couldn't imagine it any other way. Lisa (Anna Paquin) is a teenager; she's lost in her own world by her own misguided arrogance, but she must come to terms with death and the true nature of a tragic accident.

The film starts with Lisa in high school determinedly getting her way even though she probably doesn't deserve to. Nonchalantly waiting 'til class is over and wearing a skirt too short, she saunters her way to the front where her math teacher, Mr. Aaron (Matt Damon), chastises her for her poor grades. But with a slightly flirtatious tone, Lisa settles the matter with a supposedly shared understanding that it's okay because math won't factor into her future.

Later, Lisa sets out to find a stylish but functional cowboy hat in the middle of New York City. She is unsuccessful until she spies one on the head of a boyishly handsome bus driver (Mark Ruffalo) and jauntily jogs beside it determined to get his attention to both: find out where he got his hat; and also to quench a teenage girl's desire of just getting his attention. She succeeds; he drives through a red light, and kills a pedestrian in the process.

Lisa immediately feels the pain, guilt and remorse and tries to ease the woman's passage into the afterlife. The film then becomes a character study of a teenage girl determined to get past the pain and aftermath of a tragedy caused by a simple accident. The fascinating parts of this film involve how our lead character becomes less sympathetic but more fragile while remaining equally reckless.

Questions about the cause and nature of mortality are raised, and most interestingly what are the moral and immoral ways to respond to it. The film's title comes from the poem "Spring and Fall: (Margaret, Are You Grieving?)" written by Gerard Manley Hopkins in 1880. Margaret is a child who must come to terms with the loss of her innocence. "… And yet you will weep and know why. Now no matter, child, the name; Sorrow's springs are the same." Lisa's English teacher (Matthew Broderick) recites this poem to the class. Lisa is, at times, a typical teenager, bent on having things her way, always having her point heard. But now the shaky foundations which her arrogance is based on begin to crumble and we don't know and she doesn't know if she's still innocent or where she lost it.

The shortened released version of "Margaret" clocks in at over two and a half hours; edited down from the three-hour director's cut. But because of the universal tale of life and death that it tells, it needs the length. It doesn't have a simple plot, and Lisa is not a simple character. It can definitely seem errant with its uneven editing, but that's probably going to be an expected outcome of 6 years' worth of legal and creative battles going on behind the scenes.

Broderick and Ruffalo re-team from Lonergan's previous indie success "You Can Count on Me" (2000), but don't expect any actor to show more range or emotion than Anna Paquin. Everything goes through Lisa.
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10/10
A Masterpiece and an Empathy Test
Eric M. Van12 March 2013
(This is a review of the extended cut.) This is a divisive movie; most think it's flawed at best and a minority think it's a masterpiece. One thing I've noticed reading reviews is that those who have the former opinion invariably describe Lisa Cohen (a phenomenal Anna Paquin) in negative terms: unlikable, unsympathetic, even "reprehensible." Whereas I spent much of the movie weeping tears of empathy for the grief she was in.

So the question is: if, when you were 17, a stranger had died bloodily in your arms and you believed you were partly responsible for her death, how well would *you* have handled it? Apparently, a lot of people can't make that leap, can't ask themselves that question. Folks, that is a trauma that could easily give you PTSD. Lisa's reaction is quite different: she starts to do things.

The ubiquitous description of this film by those who don't think it's a masterpiece is "unfocused" (if not downright "incoherent" or a "mess"). This is clearly an opinion offered by people who are not aware that *every waking moment of Lisa's life must be colored by the accident.* There's no lack of focus at all when you see every scene through that lens.

Make no mistake: Lisa doesn't handle things well or admirably. She's 17 and a bit spoiled and in general wholly unprepared to shoulder such a burden. But she wants to do the right thing and at times is painfully self-aware that her best efforts are hurting others. In other words, the more she tries to make things better, the worse she makes it. That makes her plight all the more tragic.

This is one of the most powerful narratives in the world, one that can blow your head clean off. You've got to ask yourself one question: how much empathy do I have? Well, how much?
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