Watched Jul 03, 2012
So this film was shelved for five years, went through all sorts of litigation requiring the director to edit it down to a reasonable runtime considering I guess the amount of serious talent involved (Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo)and some far-fetched hope by investors that this maudlin drama would make money somehow... What remains is an unfinished masterpiece that feels like a mini-series condensed into two and a half hours, with awkward cuts and a push-pull pacing that makes it all the more miraculous how captivating the final product actually turns out.
Matt Gamble called me out on the Cinecast saying I would eat this shit up... And for the most part he is right. When it works, it is unflinching drama that hits at that precarious teenage moment in life when hormones and idealism overwhelm, particularly impressive in its depiction of the mother/daughter relationship. As writer/director, Kenneth Lonergan is Lena Dunhamesque in his approach to uninhibited character interactions that somehow feel bigger than life and authentic at the same time. It is messy, and some scenes go on longer than you would expect, and sometimes everything is working perfectly and it is like the film has just hit a level of genius that only films this far off the path ever discover. The experience is kind of exhilariting, irrespective of the primary layer of narrative, just to see this near-train wreck pull out all the stops and find remarkable moments of seeming improvisation that are more real than the majority of films that come out every year. Storywise, Margaret does not always hit its mark, everything from the meaning of the title to the use of macro-micro 9/11 comparisons feel trite, even if they are associations coming from teenagers who, as one character calls out in an awesome scene, are all too willing to make everything dramatically about them.
I would like to see the director's cut of this, the messier the better; this is a film I enjoy more as vignettes than as something building towards an arc.