Margaret (15)

Film

Drama

Margaret

Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>5</span>/5

User ratings:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5
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Time Out says

Tue Nov 29 2011

This is a glorious mess! Kenneth Lonergan’s long-delayed follow-up to 2000’s revered brother-sister drama ‘You Can Count on Me’ finally arrives in cinemas with little fanfare and the bitter air of failure around it. Don’t believe the gossip: the writer-director’s sprawling look at the effect a gruesome accident has on Manhattan teen Lisa Cohen (Anna Paquin) bursts with ambition and specificity in its novelistic, social-drama narrative. Our attention is grabbed right from the gorgeous slo-mo credits sequence of numerous New Yorkers going about their day – not obliviously, but more in a state of expectantly suspended animation. There’s palpable unease in the air (very potently post-9/11), and even as Lonergan sets the stage in a few mundane subsequent scenes – Lisa discussing grades with an instructor (Matt Damon) and flirting bashfully with a classmate – this strange sense of tension never dissipates.

Then the accident occurs – a woman, played with one-scene wonder by Allison Janney, gets hit by a bus – and Lisa’s life, as well as the movie containing her, goes disturbingly, brilliantly off the rails. The next two hours are the sort of no-holds-barred psychodrama that John Cassavetes specialised in: Lisa pinballs between raw emotional states while a number of vivid supporting characters, from Damon’s pushover schoolteacher to a brash Upper West Sider superbly played by Elaine May’s daughter Jeannie Berlin, circle her like moths round a frenzied flame. Paquin deserves the highest accolades for her ferociously committed performance, turning what could have been a privileged prep-school archetype into a scorching depiction of adolescent grief. And though not all of Lonergan’s conceits work on a scene-by-scene basis (an upper-crust womaniser played by Jean Reno skews a bit too close to caricature), the film has a cumulative power – solidified by a devastating opera-house finale – that’s staggering. This is frayed-edges filmmaking at its finest.
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Release details

Rated:

15

UK release:

Fri Dec 2, 2011

Duration:

150 mins

Cast and crew

Cast:

Anna Paquin, Kieran Culkin, Mark Ruffalo, Matt Damon

Screenwriter:

Kenneth Lonergan

Director:

Kenneth Lonergan

Cinemas showing Margaret

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BFI Southbank

Belvedere Rd, London, SE1 8XT Show map/details

  • Address:

    BFI Southbank Belvedere Rd
    London
    SE1 8XT

Map
  • Sat Aug 30:

    • 15:10
  • Sun Aug 31:

    • 20:00

Users say

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:8
  • 4 star:1
  • 3 star:3
  • 2 star:1
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|21
1 person listening
Dave B

This is a I have been thinking about this movie since I saw it last night and I reckon to start with you need to acknowledge that a film has some worth when it makes you think days after you watched it. The film is based on the life of Lisa Cohen, an intelligent, highly opinionated teenage girl who lives with her separated mother and brother in NYC. Anna Paquin who plays Cohen gives a blistering performance as a young person who totally believes in the inviolability of their own rights as young people sometimes do even when it means disregarding everyone else.In some scenes I got so drawn in by Paquins portrayal that I just about yelled out in the cinema that she should pull her head in and get some perspective. It was the best performance by a female lead I can remember seeing in recent years. You could see the self serving bias of the character as she tries to avoid confronting her own guilt by pursuing another character who is only marginally more to blame for the accident that occurs in the film than she is herself. I have a teenage daughter myself and it was really almost painful to see the use of passive aggressive "whatever" statements by Anna toward her mum who is absolutely consistently reasonable although a bit narcissistic. Uniformly brilliant acting makes a simple plot great viewing. I am glad I trusted other reviewers and saw this one. Keenly observed.

Dave B

This is a I have been thinking about this movie since I saw it last night and I reckon to start with you need to acknowledge that a film has some worth when it makes you think days after you watched it. The film is based on the life of Lisa Cohen, an intelligent, highly opinionated teenage girl who lives with her separated mother and brother in NYC. Anna Paquin who plays Cohen gives a blistering performance as a young person who totally believes in the inviolability of their own rights as young people sometimes do even when it means disregarding everyone else.In some scenes I got so drawn in by Paquins portrayal that I just about yelled out in the cinema that she should pull her head in and get some perspective. It was the best performance by a female lead I can remember seeing in recent years. You could see the self serving bias of the character as she tries to avoid confronting her own guilt by pursuing another character who is only marginally more to blame for the accident that occurs in the film than she is herself. I have a teenage daughter myself and it was really almost painful to see the use of passive aggressive "whatever" statements by Anna toward her mum who is absolutely consistently reasonable although a bit narcissistic. Uniformly brilliant acting makes a simple plot great viewing. I am glad I trusted other reviewers and saw this one. Keenly observed.

Scrumpyjack

Just seen the 3 hour version. Is it not a LITTLE overwrought? Some lovely scenes that will last in the memory forever. Wish id seen the "unintended" version on the big screen though, have a feeling the higher ratings than mine are fully deserved.

NKC

The film is neither a mess nor a masterpiece; but in todays world of overblown cgi effects movies, Margaret stands out as a thoughtful piece of film making for adults with no clear cut answers and lots of messy paradoxes. I think its a shame this film didnt get a fuller release even within the art house circuit as it has much to commend it and it really has something to say. I have only just scene the studio agreed 150 inute version and not the full directors cut and it is ultimately a satisfyingpeice of film making. The studio were foolish in burying the movie; its no citizen kane but there would have been plenty of people who want to be challenged with a thought provking movie who would have been happy to give this a try.

John

Just stunning. Outstanding performances by all the leads - a truly great film.

John

Just stunning. Outstanding performances by all the leads - a truly great film.

Daniel Damiano

My support of Lonergan has stemmed from his play THIS IS OUR YOUTH and first film YOU CAN COUNT ON ME, though since then there has been a growing pattern of a severe lack of restraint, particularly evident in his last play THE STARRY MESSENGER (which he also directed) and now his latest film, MARGARET. MARGARET strives for a Cassavetes-like complexity in its depiction of an uncompromising and seemingly complex character with the messiness of life not usually depicted in mainstream movies. While the attempt is certainly preferable to the usual Hollywood drivel, it still does not make it's own case as a compelling character study. While Longergan offers many Grade-A veterans from the stage and from his own previous work in film & stage, his screenplay is very scattered, almost paralleling the seemingly short-attention span of its lead character (played by Paquin). What may have been an intriguing story of how one's guilt at contributing to a tragic accident effects and changes her, MARGARET merely depicts her erratic behavior, already somewhat evident prior to the accident, and simply goes back and forth between Paquin's guilty conscience, to her passionate desire to deflect her own wrongdoing with trying to get someone else fired and, in the process, losing the momentum of us seeing her character progress or regress in an engaging way. Where as A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE, the Cassavete's classic, we do not understand right away why the title character played by Gena Rowlands acts the way she does, but as the film progresses, we understand. We see how she could break down, or what could lead her to a certain behavior. In MARGARET, I didn't feel nearly as invested in this character, but more alienated and, ultimately, just sort of wanted her to grow up. I don't think the 4 hour version should be necessary for a film of this scope to have stronger focus. So in stark contrast to Time Out's glowing endorsement of this as a "glorious mess", I can only agree upon removing the "glorious".

JimE17

Superb film. Not over the top to say it is one of the best I have ever seen. The central struggle of the smart, articulate teenager trying - but to her huge frustration, failing - to solve a problem she helped create is so well observed I found it painful to watch at times. The lead is perfectly cast and caught my sympathy while at the same time making me incredibly frustrated and even irritated. The mix of reckless self confidence and utter vulnerability reminded me of Fishtank and was as well portrayed. Many of the others are brilliantly drawn too and the fact that some of the editing cuts some scenes short just highlights how much skill has gone into the crafting of their character, so none of them need to over-explain themselves. Everything, from the school politics debates, to the opera, to the planned pony trekking week, is there for a reason but the craft of the film is how gently it unwraps it all for you. Thanks to the people at Panton Street for putting it on. If you can't get there, do get it when it emerges on DVD. You won't regret it.

JimE17

Superb film. Not over the top to say it is one of the best I have ever seen. The central struggle of the smart, articulate teenager trying - but to her huge frustration, failing - to solve a problem she helped create is so well observed I found it painful to watch at times. The lead is perfectly cast and caught my sympathy while at the same time making me incredibly frustrated and even irritated. The mix of reckless self confidence and utter vulnerability reminded me of Fishtank and was as well portrayed. Many of the others are brilliantly drawn too and the fact that some of the editing cuts some scenes short just highlights how much skill has gone into the crafting of their character, so none of them need to over-explain themselves. Everything, from the school politics debates, to the opera, to the planned pony trekking week, is there for a reason but the craft of the film is how gently it unwraps it all for you. Thanks to the people at Panton Street for putting it on. If you can't get there, do get it when it emerges on DVD. You won't regret it.

AbeC

This film is not a mess! I think this film might have become a failure just because of its history of disagreements in editting and its delayed release. It appears this film has hardly had a distribution at all and the people selling it are convinced already it is a failure, when in fact its excellence deserves to be seen, although its complexity might make it a minority taste. Perhaps it will get cult status and if so, it will deserve it. The film is about an upper middle-class New York girl, Lisa Cohen, rather spoilt and rather selfish, witnesses close up a terrible bus accident and her life changes. The moral dilemma in the film is obscured by the girl's seeming misunderstanding or possibly psychological denial of her role in the accident. The dilemma therefore gives way to us wondering how this girl thinks, how she's developping into an adult, the extent to which she's unhinged or merely a teenager. The film includes quite a lot of incident in the girl and other's lives, which makes it somewhat packed. Though this makes for slightly hard work, there are beautiful intervals of panning shots of New York with languid, filmic music, which couldn't amount to much on a soundtrack CD, but which is perfect for us to reflect on the girl's situation before aerial shots of her walking through New York streets conduct us to her next encounter. The main relationship of the film is between the girl and her mother – her single, busy, actress mother, whose kindness and help are undermined or obstructed by her own busy-ness and the girl's teenage, grumpy unpleasantness. One can see this relationship at times in a political manner, as a view on the change from tough parenting to kindness and communication. Taken with parents' busy occupations and the labour-intensiveness of the new approach, a thoughtful teenager is inevitably inclined to self-obssession and personal melodrama, and amongst the events of the film, we see this in Lisa Cohen. Possibly too much is required of the viewer, of experience and thought, to be able to consider the motivations and abilities of the protagonists, but that is really the delight of this film. You have to think hard about the characters and the world they inhabit, and you have a full view of the lives of the characters in order to think and understand. The film constantly moves towards melodrama, but then moves away, as the none of the characters is allowed to become absurd or insane and in spite of upset they remain rational (loosely, in the case of the self-obsessed girl,) and none of the characters quite sees the others' points of view or indeed what they'd actually done as opposed to what they said they'd done. There is a delicate portrayal of the girl's beginnings with boys, her awkwardness with an infatuated male friend and her own stronger feeling for a more charismatic boy. The mother's need for a relationship is portrayed, but the man involved, alone in the film, is rather two dimensional, with the exception of an excellent scene at a meal, involving the divisions in America about Jews and Israel. 9/11 haunts the class debates the girl participates in at her private school. In this excellent portrayal of adolescents in all their varying degrees of intelligence, anger, silliness, or delightful oddness is that the girls, especially Lisa Cohen, seem the angrier. The length and pacing of the film make us watch and think about all teenagers so that we can think properly about Lisa Cohen. Indeed the crowdedness of the film is its trouble and its reward – it is not a mess and deserves to be watched carefully and enjoyed.

AbeC

This film is not a mess! I think this film might have become a failure just because of its history of disagreements in editting and its delayed release. It appears this film has hardly had a distribution at all and the people selling it are convinced already it is a failure, when in fact its excellence deserves to be seen, although its complexity might make it a minority taste. Perhaps it will get cult status and if so, it will deserve it. The film is about an upper middle-class New York girl, Lisa Cohen, rather spoilt and rather selfish, witnesses close up a terrible bus accident and her life changes. The moral dilemma in the film is obscured by the girl's seeming misunderstanding or possibly psychological denial of her role in the accident. The dilemma therefore gives way to us wondering how this girl thinks, how she's developping into an adult, the extent to which she's unhinged or merely a teenager. The film includes quite a lot of incident in the girl and other's lives, which makes it somewhat packed. Though this makes for slightly hard work, there are beautiful intervals of panning shots of New York with languid, filmic music, which couldn't amount to much on a soundtrack CD, but which is perfect for us to reflect on the girl's situation before aerial shots of her walking through New York streets conduct us to her next encounter. The main relationship of the film is between the girl and her mother – her single, busy, actress mother, whose kindness and help are undermined or obstructed by her own busy-ness and the girl's teenage, grumpy unpleasantness. One can see this relationship at times in a political manner, as a view on the change from tough parenting to kindness and communication. Taken with parents' busy occupations and the labour-intensiveness of the new approach, a thoughtful teenager is inevitably inclined to self-obssession and personal melodrama, and amongst the events of the film, we see this in Lisa Cohen. Possibly too much is required of the viewer, of experience and thought, to be able to consider the motivations and abilities of the protagonists, but that is really the delight of this film. You have to think hard about the characters and the world they inhabit, and you have a full view of the lives of the characters in order to think and understand. The film constantly moves towards melodrama, but then moves away, as the none of the characters is allowed to become absurd or insane and in spite of upset they remain rational (loosely, in the case of the self-obsessed girl,) and none of the characters quite sees the others' points of view or indeed what they'd actually done as opposed to what they said they'd done. There is a delicate portrayal of the girl's beginnings with boys, her awkwardness with an infatuated male friend and her own stronger feeling for a more charismatic boy. The mother's need for a relationship is portrayed, but the man involved, alone in the film, is rather two dimensional, with the exception of an excellent scene at a meal, involving the divisions in America about Jews and Israel. 9/11 haunts the class debates the girl participates in at her private school. In this excellent portrayal of adolescents in all their varying degrees of intelligence, anger, silliness, or delightful oddness is that the girls, especially Lisa Cohen, seem the angrier. The length and pacing of the film make us watch and think about all teenagers so that we can think properly about Lisa Cohen. Indeed the crowdedness of the film is its trouble and its reward – it is not a mess and deserves to be watched carefully and enjoyed.

david glowacki

An undercurrent of intelligent film making, always make for absorbed watching..The lead is well acted if a little overdone and repetitious..The ensemble acting is exemplary...However it is a right mess of a film,lacking any cogency and proper structure..It is over long and the editing is poor..The film does not know what direction it wants to takes and what meaning it actually has...To me it is a character study of modern day New York Jewish life.A bunch of characters,although liberal are utterly obnoxious,unforgiving and self serving and intolerant of other people's view points,and the lead role is the worst of all,destroying all before her,in the belief that everyone is wrong and she is right...At best it is a film of some very interesting individual scenes with fine acting,but it never adds up..At worst it is an unfocused mumbo jumbo..Best film of the year it is not

Joe

A film you have to be prepared for. Of the dozen or so people watching this, 4 walked out after 30 mins, after the first crazy argument between mother & daughter. I lasted an hour. The intense realism in this will definitely put some people off. It is not your typical movie-night out. It is though challenging and unorthodox, but if you're not in the right frame of mind, or haven't had a beer or two, you may not be able to bear the slightly psychotic aspect of it. I'll watch it on DVD.

Paul

Yes, like PaulW above this is unexpectedly a late entry into my film of the year. Nine films showing 3D or their 2D equivalents at my WordOfCinema plex, so despite having a season ticket I tracked this down to a local Curzon. So pleased I did and loved the way the film kept opening up down different story threads around a teenager girl in NY. As a farther of teen girl, I could myself laughing out loud at many recognisable moments and can't fault the film despite its checkered history. Death to 2D & 3D pulp, go see this film and enjoy. Can't remember giving a 5* before.

Paul

Yes, like PaulW above this is unexpectedly a late entry into my film of the year. Nine films showing 3D or their 2D equivalents at my WordOfCinema plex, so despite having a season ticket I tracked this down to a local Curzon. So pleased I did and loved the way the film kept opening up down different story threads around a teenager girl in NY. As a farther of teen girl, I could myself laughing out loud at many recognisable moments and can't fault the film despite its checkered history. Death to 2D & 3D pulp, go see this film and enjoy. Can't remember giving a 5* before.

Paul Murphy

Terrific, and a long way from a 'glorious mess'. Paquin sustains one of the best portrayals of the self-absorbed world of a teenager yet filmed, and maybe we ultimately sympathise with her because we've mostly been through those awful years. She leads a great ensemble cast and much of the film's power arises with her head-on battles with other strong characters, many of whom also go full on in other directions. Paquin transfers blame and guilt onto everyone but herself but onlt when she begins to undesrstand other perspectives does she get a little wisdom. One of my films of the year - and deserves much better than only one West End showing at the Odeon Panton St (good for them!), out 3 years after completion.

Paul Murphy

Terrific, and a long way from a 'glorious mess'. Paquin sustains one of the best portrayals of the self-absorbed world of a teenager yet filmed, and maybe we ultimately sympathise with her because we've mostly been through those awful years. She leads a great ensemble cast and much of the film's power arises with her head-on battles with other strong characters, many of whom also go full on in other directions. Paquin transfers blame and guilt onto everyone but herself but onlt when she begins to undesrstand other perspectives does she get a little wisdom. One of my films of the year - and deserves much better than only one West End showing at the Odeon Panton St (good for them!), out 3 years after completion.