DVD Review: Margaret

Editing hell.
 
Here's a little back story on Margaret. This was shot in 2005 with a release date in 2007. Then the director apparently didn't meet the time restraints when he was editing the film. Then the guy financing the film got sued for not paying the studio. Then the financier sued the studio back. So after a few lawsuits and extensive editing process, Margaret finally saw the light of day in late 2011. I have to note that I didn't see the actual 3 hour extended cut. I saw the 2 1/2 hour version that Netflix is offering. I wish I could see the longer cut, because than maybe my review wouldn't feel like this:
 
I'm extremely frustrated with what I saw. Margaret is about an out spoken, moody teenager named Lisa Cohen (Anna Paquin, who 7 years ago easily passed for a teen) While trying to get the attention of a bus driver (Mark Ruffalo) she witnesses a horrific accident in which said bus driver strikes and kills a woman. Lisa can't help but feel a little guilty, and subsequently lies to the police about the traffic light being green. (it was red.) Then she starts having second thoughts. Lisa is already argumentative and strong willed, but now she's having angry out bursts at nearly every one around her. She admits to the police that she lied, and with the help of the dead woman's friend, Emily (Jeannie Berlin) she attempts to take the case to court to ensure that the driver loses his job for not paying attention. Along they way we examine Lisa's strained relationship with her mother, (J. Smith-Cameron) her interesting relationships with some of her teachers (Matt Damon, Mathew Broderick) and her impulsive relationships with her friends. (Kieran Culkin, John Gallagher Jr)
 
Does this sound like an interesting movie? Of course it does. But the way it's put together makes it feel choppy. There were numerous times where I felt scenes were cut too short, like the characters should've said more. Then there were scenes that felt completely out of place. (example: Lisa randomly walking up to a few of her teachers and telling them about an abortion she had the previous week. There is absolutely no talk of this prior.) Evening the ending felt unfinished. Who knows if the extended cut would've made this already lengthy movie feel more complete?
 
The person who is really let down by this film is Anna Paquin. Her performance is outstanding. If this had been released when it was originally intended, I honestly think she would've gotten an Oscar nomination out of it. She was that good. It's disappointing.
 
I know this review comes off as mostly negative, but I truly didn't hate Margaret. I liked it. I actually found it really interesting, but the editing was something I just can't get over. It's a lot like Tree of Life. If Terrance Malik hadn't done the world's weirdest editing job on that film, I would've loved it. Instead he ruined it in my opinion. If you do get a chance to see this film, look for the extended cut. I hope it feels more complete. A performance like this from Paquin, and a subtle but wonderful performance from Matt Damon deserve to be seen.
 
Recommended: Yes (with caution)
 
Grade: B (for plot)
 
Memorable Quote: "Because I killed her." - Lisa Cohen (Anna Paquin)

3 comments:

  1. Great review! I also thought it was choppy, but I think it works for the narrative. When I watched the 3 hour cut (after I'd seen the 2 1/2 hour one), it answered some questions, and it also revealed the subtleties of the 2 1/2 hour version. I think the longer version is more fluid, but it gives too much away. Though I appreciate the longer cut, I prefer the shorter one.

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  2. Could be my favorite movie of the year so far, I love how ambitious and novelistic it is,don't often see that.
    I think the length of the film makes us step into a world and see Lisa's mood swings, good days, and bad days, good decisions and bad ones. I wasn't bothered too much by the editing, most novels I've read I think need sharper editing, so it's nothing new to me. I also only saw the 2 1/2 hour version. Agree about Anna Paquin's performance.

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  3. If only this movie could have avoided post-production hell...it truly could have been excellent. But still, I would like to see this very much so. Nice review.

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