Margaret27 Sep 2016
Margaret, the shorter, theatrical release was streaming on Netflix a few years ago. I remember watching it then and enjoying it, especially Anna Paquin’s performance, but it wasn’t a particularly memorable film for me. Recently, I saw a screening of the longer cut at the Metrograph with Kenneth Lonegran and J. Smith-Cameron in attendance. Nary a 3-hour film feels this short, and urgent, with such locomotion even though there’s really only one action sequence near the beginning.
Here’s an incomplete list of things that make this film a masterpiece:
- the beautiful slow motion interludes: Margaret is peppered with slow moving but grand interludes of music and New York landscapes (buildings and people alike). They add an aesthetic enjoyment to this film that elevates it overall.
- Ethical dilemmas: all the twists and turns that Lisa's involvement in Emily and Monica's lives are frought with ethical and moral questions. Lisa is dealing with them on screen while we the audience deal with them in our seats.
- Acting: Paquin's range, Cameron-Smith's softness and vulnerability, Mark Ruffalo's quiet pleading, Jeannie Berlin's, well, every frame on screen; this film is chock full of amazing performances that always let Paquin stay front and center but embue each character's behavior with meaning
- The writing and dialog: if I had to pick a single feature of this film that rises above the rest it would be Lonegran's writing. His depiction of a certain type of New York Upper West Side life is simultaneously realistic and literary. The dialog he gives to his actors, could (with lesser actors) have been too heavy a weight. But none of the performances buckle under the weight of his heavy words, instead their behavior and presence elevate to meet the challenge. Longeran has also created one of the most fascinating young-adult female characters in recent memory with Lisa. Her relationship with her mother, her father, with Emily, with Paul, her brother, her friends, each more fascinating than the next. And in this longer cut, each is given proper treatment, allowing us to learn about and gain from her encounters with them all.
Overall, this film deserves the credit it has received among critics. It deserves to be seen in this longer, more demanding, but also more rewarding cut. And Lonegran deserves to be counted among a list of film-makers who have imagined, written and created masterpieces on screen.