By Gary Murray
Starring Anna Paquin, J. Smith-Cameron, Jean Reno, Jeannie Berlin, Allison Janney, Matthew Broderick, Kieran Culkin, Mark Ruffalo and Matt Damon
Written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan
Running time 149 min
MPAA Rating R
Selig Film Rating GET OUT THE TORCHES!
Even as a kid, I made movies so I know how hard it is to accomplish. I lived Super 8 (but without the alien) and always wanted to make major motion pictures. Well, life doesn’t always work out the way one dreams of as a child. I still have the desire to put something on the screen for an audience to find entertaining and thought provoking. So I find it amazing when a director makes such a waste of time like Margaret.
The story is of Lisa (Anna Paquin) a seventeen year-old NYC high-school who has a broken family. Mom (J. Smith-Cameron) is an actress getting ready for her newest Broadway play. Dad is almost non-existent, living on the beach in California. Dad is planning a trip for his kids on a ranch and young Lisa wants to wear a cowboy hat, which are hard to find in Manhattan. She notices a bus driver (Mark Ruffalo) with the kind of hat she wants. Diverting his attention to get information, the driver runs a red light and hits a woman crossing the street. Lisa holds the bleeding woman as the life flows from her body.
This event changes many aspects of Lisa’s life. As she begins to question all that is right with the world, she decides that she and the bus driver must be punished for their crimes. Finding a friend of the woman, the two recruit a relative to sue the company to have the union driver fired.
While all of this is going on, Lisa begins to grow-up and change. Doing coke, smoking weed and having casual sex with boys and men are all supposed steps to adulthood. Like every other teen on the planet, she hates her parents and most of the adult world. Another thorn in her world is the hatred for Mom’s new boyfriend (Jean Reno) a Frenchman who has much different thought processes than all these Jewish American characters.
This film is navel gazing pabulum that thinks it is making a dramatic statement. Written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan, the film feels amateurish. With lingering shots that seem to have no dramatic point, it feels like Lonergan is a director in search of some kind of coherent story. One keeps looking for a fast forward button to get the film moving in any direction. At over 2 ½ hours, it overstays its welcome by a good hour. This film needed a sure hand behind the camera and at the editing bay.
Anna Paquin just comes across as a spoiled rich kid with no sense of how anything works in the real world. It is all sniveling drivel as she ‘finds herself’ with drugs and bad sex. The film is a cliché of the worst sort, stereotypical of both youth and Jews. She in no way looks 17 and acts like she is 13. It is Miscasting 101.
The only bright spot of Margaret is J. Smith-Cameron as Mom. She is the typical actress, vain and self-centered, but still manages to find a different beat to the character. There is a lot of hurt carried in her eyes as she soaks in the stage applause.
According to the Hollywood rumor mill, Margaret has been on the shelf since 2005. I don’t know if it is true, but the film sure does feel as stale as moldy bread. This film has some strong competition with Tree of Life as the worst film of 2011.