Release: Friday, September 30, 2011 (limited)
Though the movie has no disclaimer, you should probably bring along your psychologist to this one, since you’ll be in need of immediate therapy after watching Margaret, a highly emotional, lengthy film about a girl who’s attempting to rectify her involvement in a horrific traffic accident.
Don’t let the title throw you. Anna Paquin (True Blood)actually plays the moody protagonist Lisa Cohen, a relatively wealthy New York City teen, daughter of a somewhat successful stage actor (played by J. Smith-Cameron). One day she’s out searching for the perfect cowboy hat and then sees a Metropolitan Transit Authority driver wearing one. In the light of day, surely it would have been easier to just get on the bus and ask him where he got it, but then, we’d have no story. Rather, she frantically tries to keep pace with the slow-moving bus, waving at the driver (Mark Ruffal0) and signaling to his head. With his eyes on Lisa and not the road, the driver blows a red light and strikes a crossing pedestrian. We’re left with a scene of agony, blood and the turn of the movie. The first twenty minutes will shock you.
However, I have no clue how the film then stretched out for another 130. Click here to read about some of the issues it had with the TRT.
After the wreck, we are presented with thorough day-in-the-life scripture. We get to know her home life is not all that great; that her father is distant, living off odd jobs in the Hollywood grind (presumably), and we know she likes to flirt. We meet her schoolteachers: Matt Damon playing the sympathetic geometry teacher who ultimately takes some wrong angles with one of his students; Matthew Broderick as an English instructor not quite in control of his classroom. Among peers, Lisa’s intelligent, proactive and in possession of a great scholarship.
But it all comes apart at the seams after the accident, and her emotional turmoil tightens its grip not only around Lisa’s, but our throats. Turning to adults for advice instead of close friends and even her own mother, Paquin does an excellent job portraying Lisa’s precocious nature; she’s awkward, and hellishly aggressive in trying to privately assess her role in the death of Monica. However, as the implications of her unique circumstances begin to bear more practical relevance (cops, lawyers, families, etc), we also start to feel a bit repelled by it all.
It’s right around the time Lisa decides she will change her statement to local police about how the accident happened, that we notice a change in our lead role here. Originally claiming that the driver had the right-of-way because the signal was green, Lisa needs the truth to come out so justice can be done. But the further into the movie we venture — that is to say, the deeper we go into her mind — the more abrasive and downright unpleasant Lisa is, and it becomes more difficult to empathize. While it’s clear the reasons why we tire of her “stridence” (a bomb she drops on Emily, lifelong friend of the dead woman, during one of several severe verbal confrontations), the emotional fragility of this young girl simply overwhelms the picture — leaving us stranded in our seats, fighting for our heart rates to calm down. You’re not meant to be strung out in a movie, in my opinion, but this one certainly will recede the hairline a little.
While there is a fitting resolution, it is not a pleasant one at all. Lisa and her mother Joan are viewing an opera. The weight of the last weeks of Lisa’s life culminate in a breakdown in the theatre, and the two embrace before credits roll. It all ends quietly, as if the movie itself had finally just, … given up. And what do we end up with?
The wrongful death suit settlement they desired after withering the legal procedures and that had consumed Lisa’s, well, for all intents and purposes — her entire being — was worth $350K but that wasn’t enough for either of them. They wanted him gone from the transportation services, but that didn’t happen either due to a conflicting labor dispute among MTA members.
No. In the end there was hope for the reconnect of Lisa with her mother, as they both wept and seemed to be closer together for the first time all movie. But as far as shedding the burden carried by both herself and Emily, it seemed to be rather hopeless.
Recommendation: I wasn’t a fan, but then again, I don’t think I could kick it on the streets of New York City in the first place.
Running Time: 149 mins.
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