Bothersome New York City high-school student Lisa Cohen (17), who consistently messes up her life and that of boy classmates, searches New York in vain for a fit cowboy hat to wear at an excursion with her separated father and stepmother. Spotting one on bus driver Maretti's head but failing to board, she stubbornly runs along and keeps claiming his confused attention, until the bus hits a blind senior, who is wounded fatally The NYPD quickly closes the case as an accident, but Lisa, duly consumed by guilt and spared any charge, starts bothering everyone and making a mean pest of herself, not only at home, as self-absorbed actress mother may deserve, but also in the precinct, tracking down the victim's uninterested kin out of town and even Maretti at home. A family friend lawyer gets involved in the case, digging in to compromising circumstances and causing real trouble to people who were of the hook.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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