My thoughts after finally getting to see it on TV? Thank goodness I never actually purchased it!
Don't get me wrong, acting is good. Story is interesting, but it's sooo long, and Anna's character is a brat I couldn't stand.
When she starts rallying to get the bus driver sacked over the accident she caused, I knew I just couldn't with her character. She's always yelling too, just wanted to slap the little madam. Lol.
So, yes, ambitious and well made little movie, but definitely not one to rewatch.(For me, anyhow).
I should note that I watched the extended cut, which runs about 186 minutes.
17 year-old Lisa is a privileged upper class Jewish girl who, while out shopping, inadvertently causes a traffic accident that leads to a gruesome death. Feeling guilty, she tries to set things right, but in the process, experiences a very grueling and emotional journey. The film also charts her rocky relationship with her mother, as well as career as a student, which involves heavy classroom debates, and questionable relations with a teacher.
I used the term operatic, and that wasn't an accident. In fact, opera is a recurring motif throughout. And this is a very full film, stuffed to the gills with characters, storylines, and a sweeping scope.
And, that's kinda the problem here. I saw the extended cut, which is just about 30 minutes longer than the theatrical release. Not having seen the shorter version, I can't say if this longer cut is better or not. Quick research tells me that this longer cuts does tie some loose ends, and fleshes some stuff out, but man, is it a chore to sit through.
This film had a troubled production, and took several years to get released. I don't know the details, but apparently it had something to do with this film's very high level of ambition and weighty subject matter. I can respect this film for having a strong vision, but can also safely say that this just wasn't for me.
For one thing, this film, in broad terms, is a lot like Paranoid Park. Same general premise, but with a few tweaks. Only thing is, that film was half as long, and got the point across a lot better and easier. I'm okay with long films, and even some long slow films, but this particular long slow film was a real endurance test.
It's emotionally grueling, but also really repetitive, long, and slow. And, there's not much in the way of levity either. And like I said, Paranoid Park did it more compactly.
I did enjoy the cast here, though. And yes, they give some strong performances. Those two things, along with the cinematography are probably the best, if only reasons I didn't rate this one lower. Anna Paquin is great, and very believable. Mark Ruffalo is good, and shows his range. Matt Damon was at first a tad hard to swallow as a younger teacher, but he grew on me. Broderick likewise managed to pull a decent performance as well. Her part is brief, but I feel the need to give special praise to Allison Janney- the traffic accident scene is easily one of the most gripping, gut wrenching, and effective sequences of recent years, and definitely of one this film's highlights.
All in all, I think that some of this is pretty well made, but it's a bit too long, too slow, pretentious, and repetitive to endure...especially with such grim subject matter.
Second: As much other reviewers has been focusing on Director but not many mentioned the Plot or the Actors, especiall the Plot, I thought to give a small clue to all those who are interested.
I think the accident what the plot is based on was just a subsidiary. I think all around I had the feeling it was about the problems Teenages are confronted with these days. Interesting were the conversations and Debattes in classrooms. And other small things which we actually all know from our teenage years.
I had to rate it at four. All around this Movie make sense atlast if you really pay attention.
I would recommend it to deep thinkers.
This movie kind of went there and dies
I thought that at first too, as said deep thinking is required I guess.
Lisa Cohen (Anna Paquin) is a 17-year-old high-school student who, one day, distracts a bus driver (Mark Ruffalo), resulting in the death a woman crossing the street. Through time, this tragic accident eats away at her and through her frustration and sense of guilt she begins to emotionally brutalise everyone around her, unaware that she's harming herself even more so.
This is a film that has, without a doubt, a sense of realism. Even, at times, uncomfortable so but that's credit to writer/director Lonergan and an exceptionally good cast. Everyone, no matter how small a role, really bring something to the table here but ultimately the film rests in the hands of Paquin. I've never been entirely convinced by her before but she delivers a heartfelt and desperate performance here. Her precociousness, coldness and occasional fits of emotional rage are highly destructive. This is essentially a right-of-passage tale but it can sometimes be a harrowing one, in what seems like a complete meltdown from the protagonist. Her motivations are never entirely clear and Lonergan refuses to spoon-feed us the answers either. This could be viewed as an exploration of teenage angst and the awkward progression to adulthood or even youthful idealism in the face of a very complex adult world. It could even be a commentary on the loneliness and need for belonging in a dense and detached society. There are regular slow and protracted shots of New York as a vast and vibrant city but also full of emptiness and lonely disengaged people - Lisa embodying this very detachment. Almost (if not) all of the characters in this film have difficulty connecting with people in one way or another. Everyone seems to be searching to belong somewhere. That being said, the protraction causes the film to meander towards it's conclusion and leaves many questions unanswered. It's hard to say whether this is down to the editing issues or just the style that Lonergan intended but it's nonetheless an intriguing and thought provoking journey. It won't appeal to everyone due to it's deliberate pace and a 2 hr 30min running time certainly requires a level of commitment. At several times throughout the film, I even questioned whether it was just pure self-indulgent drivel or something of substance. After reflection, I decided on the latter. There is a depth here, even if I didn't fully understand what it was.
A deep and melancholic character study that explores the themes of responsibilty, coming-of-age and an important sense of self. It can be difficult viewing due to it's length and ambiguity but it's still worthy of some attention.
Lisa Cohen (Anna Paquin) is a privileged New York City teenager who usually gets what she wants. She's on the hunt for a cowboy hat when she spots a bus driver (Mark Ruffalo) with one. She runs alongside the bus, trying to ask him about the hat. It's just enough to distract the driver. He runs a red light and plows into a pedestrian, Monica Patterson (Allison Janney). As a crowd forms and help is called for, Lisa holds the broken woman during her final, hellish moments. Afterwards, she lies to the police to protect the driver. The guilt eats away at her. She lashes out, she hurts others, she butts heads with her stage actress mother (J. Smith-Cameron), and she's looking for anything to cope. Eventually Lisa decides to come clean and seek justice but it just might be too late.
Margaret is a messy, imperfect film, over-indulgent and cluttered, but man does it stick with you. It sits in your stomach. You can't shake it. You just keep thinking back on it. And after a while, the flaws itself start to transform into virtues themselves. The film is messy and all over the place but my God does it excel at recreating, in startling spasms of uncontrollable emotion, the life of an American teenager. There is no off switch when it comes to emotions, and when you're young everything seems like the end of the world. Like Lisa, you alternate between self-involvement and idealism, and you haven't hardened to the way the world works just yet. The movie, thematically, latches onto the same wavelength as its heroine. Lisa is a flawed creature, deeply hurting and trying to come to terms with her own responsibility and guilt for the accident. It just so happens that she makes mistakes trying to deal with that pain, and innocent people get hurt, and people we once thought were noble reveal their own impulses and vulnerabilities. Whether she's sympathetic as a protagonist doesn't matter, though even when she hurt others I never found her less than fascinating. She feels everything so intensely, and those intense feelings bleed into other areas of her life. She can be woefully self-involved and callous at times, but she can also be self-possessed and fearless in a moral quagmire. At one point, a character argues that teenagers would govern better than adults because teens are still idealistic and proactive, even if their actions are dismissed as naive. Lisa wants to find justice in the world somehow, so she can make sense of this random tragedy. She still clings to the belief, even as the film becomes a messy legal battle (one of its many genres Lonergan dabbled in).
There are plenty of storylines and themes and messages that Lonergan wishes to weave into a seamless patchwork version of our intolerable, detached, self-involved culture. The film is something of a time capsule, way back in 2005, and the post-9/11 anxieties and civil insecurity is also dealt with in interesting ways. Lisa's social studies class repeatedly descends into shouting matches, debates that reduce the opposition in the simplest terms. After a while, all we're doing is trying to out-shout the other and no one is listening anymore. Lisa comments that our culture feels so disconnected and that people have stopped relating to one another. Of course his also extends to her as well, as she confuses her feelings and those around her. The mother-daughter dynamics are a fascinating character insight and one of the better onscreen relationships I've seen in years. You can clearly see where Lisa gets some of her showboat tendencies. Both mother and daughter have stopped being able to relate to one another, and Lisa, can wield sarcasm like a weapon, as teenagers are wont to do to their parents. Mom is dating a man she doesn't particularly connect with, and yet she enjoys the company and the desire to be wanted. Is that enough to fulfill her gnawing sense of loneliness? Lisa's father is the type to run from conflict, and yet the man is just as self-absorbed and hurtful as anyone else in the film. Except he's an adult and, theoretically, should know better. In that regard, the movie reminds me of the excellent Little Children; this is a movie of mitigated personal responsibility from people of all ages. If this is the way the world works, then why not give teenagers a chance?
The opera is a reoccurring motif for the film, and it's a strong artistic association for the film because Lonergan sort of gives his characters arias with which to work. The emotions are sent to overdrive, the arguments are full-blast, and the dialogue lands in that articulate, hyper-verbal territory but isn't self-consciously snappy. It's had to quantify but it's dialogue that's painful and revealing and, while beautifully crafted, can come across as genuine. The entire movie is the same way. This is a drama where, in Spin Tap terms, the emotions go to eleven. It's a big bleeding heart of a movie, but it's not corny or maudlin or mawkish or TV movie sentimental. It's fearlessly emotional and takes you on a journey with many stops. You'll likely be horrified, thrilled, precarious, elated, angry, saddened, and frustrated.
It may be best described as a series of potent, powerful scenes rather than a traditional screenplay with a clear through line. The most memorable scene also happens to be the one that sets everything in motion - the accident. It is horrific and awful in ways that movies rarely deal with. The first image we see is a leg pinned under the bus. Oh no, we think. But then the camera continues to pan down and we see... the rest of her in a heap. Oh no, we say to ourselves again, even more aghast. We're there for the harsh reality, the sad realization of Monica that she's going to die ("Are my eyes open? I can't see..."), and the shock and confusion of the situation. There's blood shooting everywhere, no sign of help, and the woman is fading away, confusing Lisa with her deceased daughter of the same name. Lonergan makes us stay in this traumatic scene for a long time, an uncomfortable amount of time, enough that the horrible incident is burned into our memory as well, and when Lisa crusades for justice or looks for some physical or emotional escape from the trauma, we know why. It's one of those one-scene marvels, a byproduct of near-perfection on every technical level.
This is pre-True Blood Paquin and boy does she deliver when it comes to the dramatic feats of her character. She's convincing as a coy, too smart for her own good teenager, she's devastating as a lost, dour soul lashing out at the world, looking for anything to ease the pain, and even when she stumbles, she's fascinating. Paquin goes through a variety of moods to suit the variety of tones and storylines for the film, and her performance never falters. I'm amazed at how fast she can spit out the verbiage, while crying her eyes out, and all without gasping for breath. She's nothing short of amazing.
The rest of the movie is filled with recognizable actors in small parts, from Matt Damon (The Adjustment Bureau) as a nice guy math teacher with his own weakness, Matthew Broderick (Election) as a pompous English teacher, Jean Reno (Couples Retreat) as the off kilter suitor to Lisa's mother, Kieran Culkin (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) as the bad boy druggie who deflowers Lisa, John Gallagher Jr. (TV's The Newsroom) as the nice guy with the unrequited crush on Lisa, Rosemarie Dewitt (The Watch) as the bus driver's wife, Lonergan himself as Lisa's neglectful father, and the triumphant return to screen of Jeannie Berlin (The Heartbreak Kid) who hasn't appeared in a movie since 1990. Berlin specially has the juiciest part as Monica's closest friend and eventual confidant for Lisa. She takes on Lisa's mission for justice, but she's still wary of Lisa and her hyperbolic nature. She accuses Lisa of making up a garish detail (the Lisa name confusion in Monica's last moments): "This isn't an opera! And we are not all supporting characters to the drama of your amazing life!"
The title of the film comes from a poem called "Spring and Fall" by Gerard Manley Hopkins addressed to a grieving subject named Margret: "Ah! as the heart grows older/ it will come to such sights colder/... /It is the blight man was born for/ It is Margaret you mourn for." When you come down to it, Lonergan's film is about the awareness of mortality, the shock of death, the realization of the end, and our pitiful attempts to turns off the feelings more fully felt. Adults, Lonergan argues, have become hardened to the world to the frailty of life, and you question if that hardening, a natural process, is a good thing. Perhaps the dubious claim that teenagers should take a chance running the world is not without some sliver of merit. Margaret is a movie that's hard to pin down; there's so much going on, not all of it fully realized or satisfying I freely confess, but it's a thrill to witness an artistic vision that's bursting with things to say, so many things that life cannot contain them all. The 150-minute running time will be a stumbling block for some, bu honestly I never felt the film drag like I do most Hollywood action thrillers of that length. When you step away, and take the film's messiness into context, then Margaret stops being an ambitious but erratic artistic miscue and starts coalescing into something bolder, richer, and thought provoking. It took a long strange journey to get here, but Margaret is a movie that deserves to be savored and debated.
Nate's Grade: A-
If only Lonergan were wise to zero in on Lisa in the editing room, however, for he rather ambitiously and wrongheadedly uses her situation as a springboard to other subplots and peripheral characters whose barely-there payoffs ultimately prove to not be worth the time and effort spent (such as Lisa's stage actress mother's new romance) or, even worse, are simply suddenly, completely abandoned before ever getting a chance to even reach a dead end. This is all the more frustrating when, perhaps owing to his playwright roots, Lonergan crafts a few isolated scenes whose crackling dialogue organically build to memorably charged (whether dramatically or comedically, sometimes both) climaxes, but often said scenes, as good as they are on their own, exist in a vacuum divorced from the bigger picture (case in a point, a highly amusing but completely tangential classroom debate between a student and a teacher). And the cast--in addition to Paquin, J. Smith-Cameron (as the mom), Mark Ruffalo, Kieran Culkin, Matthew Broderick (as said teacher) and a very young looking Matt Damon -- all bring their A-game to a script that reads well from line to line and scene by scene but hardly hangs together as a whole. It's a classic case of a film trying to tackle so much that it ends up effectively tackling nothing at all -- and the abstract title pretty much sums up how pretentious and ultimately unfocused this film is.
When 17 year old Lisa innocently steals the attention of a Manhattan bus driver, she unintentionally causes an accident that drastically alters the course of her life. To put it lightly, the mouthy naive high school student gets a crash course in the fragility of existence. (While that incredibly uncouth pun may have seemed unintentional, it sadly wasn't.)
Lisa doesn't have anybody to turn to. Her mother, a successful local theater actor, seems more comfortable with her on stage persona than in her own skin. With nowhere to look for guidance, Lisa turns to drugs, promiscuity, and eventually retribution for her penance. This path is fraught with bumps and less than satisfactory ends. Yet, Lisa trudges on.
Lonergan juxtaposes Lisa's personal struggles with her time in her elite private school, pontificating with her fellow classmates about war & analyzing Shakespearean tragedies. Lisa's first encounter with overwhelming tragedy is filtered through this abundance of over-educated jargon and the general self-aggrandizement that is a consequence of youth and from having a mother whose career is dramatics.
As it states in the Gerard Manley Hopkins poem that the film is named after: "As the heart grows older, It will come to such sights colder." Lonergan beautifully shows Lisa coming to grips with tragedy at such a young age and the jaded nature of adults who have experienced more than their fair share of sadness in their lifetimes.
Luckily Anna Paquin, whom I am still having a hard time forgiving for the True Blood series, is actually very good here. I wish she would spend more time in these types of roles and less time grinding her pelvis against night walkers. As always, Ruffalo and Damon are superb even though they both have minor roles. Unfortunately, some of the supporting cast is terrible. There is one seen in particular where a student is fighting to get out a few sentences that is especially painful. Yet, for the most part the performances are what make the film.
Margaret is a sprawling piece of purposeful imperfection. Detailing the ordinary amid the extraordinary. At it's best it skims the surface of what it means to be a young American post-9/11. All the uncertain emotions and moral ambiguity that accompanies tragedy and how various personalities respond to such events. It is ambitious, unique, flawed, and well worth your time.
A young woman witnesses a bus accident, and is caught up in the aftermath, where the question of whether or not it was intentional affects many people's lives.
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. Margaret delivers 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.
The film starts out very well. One hour in, I thought that Lonergan had created yet another near-masterpiece. But at the end of the second hour (the film is an overly long two-and-a-half hours), I felt "Margaret" was a film that had come off the rails and become a chaotic mess.
I am also not a fan of casting twentysomethings to play teenage characters. I feel it's an insult to teenage characters. Paquin never for a second seemed like a teenager to me. She seemed like a college student, an older one at that. This was a major flaw in my eyes.
But there are so many things about this film that are amazing. And even the chaos had certain interesting things about it. The film is recommended for serious cinephiles who appreciate lofty artistic ambitions even when those ambitions aren't completely met.
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.
On the one hand, "Margaret" is long and not without its share of flaws such as being indifferently edited at times(somebody sure likes his panaromic shots). And of the 8 or 9 possible endings, I'm not sure I agreed with the final decision. On the other hand, it is a smart and compelling look at a formerly spoiled young woman who comes of age by thinking beyond herself for the first time in her life by getting involved in a cause, even as she does some harm in the bargain. At the same time, the movie operates counterintuitively in being emphatic, not strident(to rephrase a semantic debate from the movie), in showing there to be more than one viewpoint in every story, although to be honest I have used stronger words than "corrupt" to describe Presidents. And by invoking "King Lear," with its sisters tearing apart their father's kingdom, the movie could be said to be denigrating teenaged girls in general(who the "Twilight" franchise notwithstanding, I usually have no argument with), for the carelessness of their actions.(My what language!). But it is not really their fault, as Lisa's behavior and those of her generation might be explained by the lack of any decent adult supervision or leadership but then this is 2006(the fare is $2.00 and you-know-who is still President), not 1995, so there is not as much to worry about.
Having Anna Paquin in my face for two-and-half-hours trying to act in this tragic growing-up melodrama surrounding made my life miserable for the moment... the story of Lisa Cohen started really well, but very soon this privileged teen living in New York City who experiences a loss of innocence, both literally and figuratively, after witnessing a bus running over a woman, became a real mess.
If you are interested in seeing some bad and loud acting from Paquin without real expression of emotions, a story which is mostly obnoxious and solutions flighty, and talented but underutilized supporting cast, go and waste 2.5 hours on it.