DVD Review: Margaret

STUDIO: Fox | DIRECTOR: Kenneth Lonergan | CAST: Anna Paquin, Mark Ruffalo, Allison Janney, Matt Damon, Olivia Thirlby, Matthew Broderick, Jeannie Berlin, Jean Reno
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 7/10/2012 | PRICE: Blu-ray/DVD Combo $39.99
BONUSES: theatrical and extended versions
SPECS: R | 150 min./186 min. | Drama | 1.85:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1/DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | English, French and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

 

Margaret comes to DVD and Blu-ray as an Amazon exclusive following a brief appearance in theaters in September, 2011. Actually shot in 2005, the drama had become a cause célèbre among movie fans and film critics following years of editing problems, lawsuits, and fights between producers, the film studio (Fox Searchlight) and its writer/director Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count On Me).

Margaret movie scene

Anna Paquin stars in Margaret.

Reviewed here in its theatrical edition (the DVD/Blu-ray combo also includes a 36-minutes-longer extended cut), Margaret is lyrical, messy, wholly engrossing and bearing little resemblance to American films in terms of narrative and structure. It is likely to fascinate and infuriate audiences equally.

In a tour-de-force, pre-True Blood performance, Anna Paquin plays Lisa Cohen, a Manhattan prep school student who covers for a bus driver (Mark Ruffalo, The Kids are All Right) when he accidentally kills a pedestrian (Allison Janney, Life During Wartime). Wracked by guilt, the self-centered Lisa has a change of heart and decides to admit she lied to authorities about the incident after she seeks out the late woman’s best friend Emily (Jeannie Berlin, The Heartbreak Kid). At the same time, Lisa is having problems relating to her anxious actress mother (J. Smith-Cameron, Man on a Ledge) and, at school, a couple of her teachers (Tower Heist‘s Matthew Broderick and We Bought a Zoo‘s Matt Damon), one of whom (Damon) she is smitten with.

Along with the central drama of Lisa’s involvement in a fatal accident, Margaret is all over the place, taking time to delve into her mother’s romance with a Colombian businessman (Jean Reno, Armored), Lisa’s burgeoning sexual experimentation, and the legal drama that unfolds when the late woman’s family gets involved with Emily and Lisa in a lawsuit regarding the accident. In the context of the film, these asides—and there are even more—don’t add up to much, but they do bring fascinating doses of anecdotal drama to the proceedings. Additionally, they inject a sense of unpredictability into the film which will continue to confound and intrigue viewers now and in the future.

Incidentally, there are no characters in Margaret named “Margaret”—the name is mentioned in a poem by Gerald Manley Hopkins that is referenced in the film.

 

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About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.