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September 5, 2012

Reviewing Margaret has been an interesting experience. It is difficult breaking down the small yet ambitious film that feels epic in scope. I can break down the biggest blockbuster of all time Avatar by saying “Dances With Wolves meets Pocahontas with blue people and Giovanni Ribisi.” I can break down a HUGE movie with blue giants with ease however when writing about a film featuring a teenager dealing with a death there is no pithy sentence that can do it justice.

Filmed in 2005 and scheduled to hit in the theaters in 2007  Margaret was delayed years in editing and development hell. Kenneth Lonergan’s follow up to the hit You Can Count on Me had an incredibly rocky road to the theater. Lonergan’s original cut was over 180 minutes and the studio rejected it and forced him to chop it down to 150. Martin Scorcese and his editor Thelma Schoonmaker put together a Lonergan approved 150 minute cut but the studio rejected that as well. In 2011 the movie was dumped into theaters and made a paltry $46,000.  However, something strange happened. Critics rallied around the film and it became a word of mouth favorite among aficionados. Author/critic/Grantland hero Chuck Klosterman went as far as saying it was the best American film since There Will Be Blood.

I’ve searched for words but they would never accurately explain Margaret. It moves quickly yet stalls. The visuals are haunting and the dialogue intelligent. It is not a film for everyone. I can see how intelligent people would like and be annoyed by it. The biggest problem with the current version of Margaret is that it is not the %100 Lonergan approved edit. So, somewhere down the line I have to watch the mega edit involving more neurotic New York. The weird thing is I am stoked to watch the three hour mega edit that will be unwieldy, eccentric and super ambitious.

Margaret is the story of a high school student who was somewhat responsible for a woman’s death. Planning for an eventual horse riding trip she tries to hail a bus driver who is wearing a cowboy hat. While he is looking at her the bus crushes a woman crossing the street. What follows is a fantastic film that moves briskly and always keep your attention. The dialogue pops and captures the conversations teenagers have. They think they know it all but the more you see the less you know.

Anna Paquin does a fine bratty job in her pre-True Blood years. Her character is smart but dumb. She thinks she knows it all but in her closed off rich New York  she can’t comprehend the world around her. Her relationship with her actress mother is strained and her dad lives in California. She carries on a dangerous relationship with Kieran Culkin and tries to get Mark Ruffalo admit to his share of the fault. She has a close relationship with her teacher Matt Damon and her other teacher Matthew Broderick sees through her charade.

Watch Margaret. It is confounding, unwieldy and fantastic. If you are a fan of film or want to be hip in the pretentious world of under appreciated cinema go check it out.

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