Movie Review: Margaret
Rating: R (strong language, sexuality, some drug use, and disturbing images)
Length: 150 minutes
Release Date: September 30, 2011
Directed by: Kenneth Lonergan
Stars: 3 out of 5
"Margaret" is a drama that stars Hollywood royalty such as Anna Paquin, Matt Damon, and Mark Ruffalo, among many others. For the film's director (and writer), Kenneth Lonergan, this was only his second major movie as a solo director. "Margaret" was highly anticipated it was first announced; however, the film was only released in 2011, six years after Lonergan started shooting scenes for it. Multiple legal disputes prevented the movie from being released to movie theaters. Lonergan first came up with the idea for the film back in 2003, and he spent the next 2 years writing the screenplay before he finally began shooting the film in 2005. After another year of shooting and editing, "Margaret" was slated for release some time during 2007. However, what followed was any director's worst nightmare.
"Margaret" was originally meant to be distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures in 2007. However, the production company wanted the film to run for no longer than 150 minutes. Lonergan, however, wanted the film to run for 3 hours. A compromise was reached when acclaimed Hollywood director Martin Scorsese helped Lonergan edit his version of the film down to a running time of 150 minutes. However, one of the many producers for the film, Gary Gilbert, rejected the cut. Eventually, Fox Searchlight Pictures was able to get all parties to come to an understanding: the film version would only run for 150 minutes, but the DVD release would allow viewers to watch the extended version. After much anticipation, the film was finally released on September 30, 2011 in movie theaters in the United States.
Anna Paquin heads up the cast as Lisa, a 17-year-old Manhattan student. Lisa is bolder than many of her classmates, even admitting to her teacher, Aaron Caije (played by Damon), that she cheated on a test he gave. Paquin fulfills the role of a stereotypical young teenager who has no respect even for herself, let alone others. However, as in all good movies, there comes a turning point that will eventually cause Lisa to reevaluate her life.
One day, Lisa is walking on the sidewalk when she notices a handsome bus driver, Gerald (played by Mark Ruffalo), who has parked his bus only a few feet away from her. Lisa's precociousness gets the better of her, and she runs alongside the bus as it travels down the street. However, Gerald gets distracted by the beautiful young lady and hits a pedestrian, who ends up dying in Lisa's arms. Although the effects are not immediate, this incident will have a huge impact on Lisa later in the film.
The victim's cousin files a wrongful death lawsuit against the Metropolitan Transit Authority. Although Lisa was a primary witness, she wants nothing to do with the case. Viewers of "Margaret" get the sense that she has feelings for Gerald and wants to protect him as much as possible. Lisa carries on with her life like by going to parties and openly sleeping around with guys. After a while, Lisa finds out she is pregnant, but she is unsure of the father's identity (one possibility is her math teacher, Mr. Caije). Without consulting anyone at all, Lisa gets an abortion.
Despite all the troubles in her life, Lisa still cannot let go of the day she caused Gerald to kill a pedestrian. Lisa wants to find out more, so she goes to meet him. However, Gerald pretends that the incident never happened. After some pressure from Lisa, Gerald admits that he does remember the accident, but he feels that he did nothing wrong. Lisa is outraged at his behavior, so she changes her mind and chooses to help with the lawsuit against him.
After a conclusion to the lawsuit case, the victim's cousin receives a settlement offer of $350,000, which she accepts immediately. Part of the deal is that Gerald gets to keep his job, because labor disputes might occur if he were fired. The cousin of the victim admits to Lisa that all she wanted was to receive a payout. Lisa is outraged and feels like everything that she had fought for was pointless.
During the closing scene, Lisa goes to the opera with her estranged mother. On the way, Lisa sees Gerald driving the same bus that caused the accident. The two of them have a moment, and then both go their separate ways.
After all the build-up to "Margaret," moviegoers can be pleased with the final outcome, no matter how long it took to get released. This intriguing drama causes viewers to feel hatred towards Paquin's character at times, but there are plenty of moments in which they can feel sympathy too. Young teenagers would be advised to see this film, as it shows a typical life journey of a 17-year-old Manhattan teen.