Upon first hearing about, Margaret, I did my usual research; who is writer? who is in it, who is directing and what’s it about? The story itself revolves around 17-year-old Lisa Cohen (Anna Paquin), a high school student living in New York who feels certain that she inadvertently caused a traffic accident, which claimed a woman’s life.
Margaret has all the right ingredients for a great film, a startling opening sequence, a great storyline and a star studded cast, which includes Matt Damon (The Bourne Trilogy), Anna Paquin (The Piano, True Blood), Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are Alright) and also a fantastic writer/director, Kenneth Lonergan. But it was the back-story about this film’s journey to the big screen and its subsequent limited release that really caught my attention.
This is Kenneth Lonergan’s second stint as both writer and director, since his Oscar nominated You Can Count On Me. Lonergan has penned some of Hollywood’s box office big hitters, with such titles as Gangs of New York and Analyze This. He has proven himself as Hollywood gold, so why have Fox Searchlight Pictures tried to bury his second directorial title?
First of all, the actual film was shot in 2005, hence the screen shots of a very much younger looking Anna Paquin. Initially, the dispute appears to have started over the long editing delays, as Lonergan’s first cut was just over three hours long, while the released version comes in at 150 minutes, so I get the feeling that Lonergan was pressurized into signing off on the shorter version.
No smoke without fire they say! With some of the actors saying the original script was over three hundred pages long! Searchlight must have panicked and thought lets bury it and avoid pumping more money into an already hard sell. In a world where three-hour drama films are nearly in a different genre, let alone era. Lonergan’s words on the subject, though limited, (due to pending court battles) were ‘…while I fully support the released cut, it is also no secret that I tried to get a subsequent version released, which Marty Scorsese very graciously helped with, which even more fully executes my complete intentions…a cut that I hope someday, somehow will see the light of day,’ which leaves the tantalizing prospect of a future director’s cut.
Social media has led this film on its own unique path, which in turn forced Searchlight to send out the screeners to festivals and reviewers, resulting in rave reviews with mentions of ‘Oscar material’ and ‘masterpiece’ in the same article. One day I am sure we will see a bonus edition DVD of Margaret, with the full three hours of the original directors’ cut and perhaps included on the extras, Kenneth Lonergan will get to tell his own story about ‘the one that nearly got away.’
Margaret will screen in The Model Cinema for three nights only, so catch this limited release while you can on the big screen this Wednesday and Thursday at 8.15pm and Sunday, 8 April at 6.15pm.
‘Paquin creates that rarest of things: a profoundly unsympathetic character who is mysteriously, mesmerically, operatically compelling to watch.’
The Guardian *****
‘Kenneth Lonergan’s long-delayed second film, starring Anna Paquin, is a brilliant, sprawling drama of modern life’
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian *****
‘So what’s particularly astonishing about Margaret is that it feels so burningly right. It’s rare, unstable, and kind of a masterpiece.’
The Telegraph *****