Friday, August 24, 2012


Completed and originally scheduled for theaterical release in 2007 Margaret, writer/director Kenneth Lonergan's film about a self-absorbed teenage girl (Anna Paquin) whose life is affected by a bus crash she witnessed (and inadvertently helped cause) was finally released in theaters last year to mixed results. Maybe it should have stayed on the shelf a little longer.

The Blu-ray of the film includes the theatrical cut of the film as well as a DVD with the director's extended 186-minute version. Although the movie provides several strong performances, the extended cut features extended cutaways, random shots of New York set to an operatic score, often buries the conversation of the main characters among the bustle of New York City, and gives us several subplots that never really fit together, creating a pretentious mess that is often more maddening than entertaining.

The film's best sequence, by far, involves the bus accident and the initial fallout involving Lisa (Paquin) craddling the victim (Allison Janney, giving the film's best performance) in her arms. Sadly none of the other stories, all of which keep obscuring the central plot the film (which it is only half-interested in exploring), have anywhere near the same emotional payoff, including the film's schmaltzy ending.

Despite all of its ambitions most of Margaret's various plot threads don't lead anywhere interesting. These include Lisa's mother (J. Smith-Cameron) dealing with her new play and boyfriend (Jean Reno), the tease of an inappropriate relationship between Margaret and one of her teachers (Matt Damon), awkward teenage friendships (and even more awkward teenage sex), and a late subplot involving lawyers and a court case in an attempt by the character to make amends.

Despite several strong performances that succeed in getting the emotion of each scene across to the viewer the film is perplexing also filled, even in those same sequences, with stretches of clunky dialogue and halfhearted line readings that never come close to resembling real conversations. Margaret is a pretensions mess that may have moments of brilliance but with a running time of more than three hours you'd hope for a higher percentage of success.

Despite the film's troubled history the Blu-ray includes no special features other than the extra DVD with the extended cut of the film. We get no featurettes and no commentary. Neither disc even includes the film's trailer. You may choose to pick this one up if you like, but if you do you're more of glutton for punishment than I.

[Fox Searchlight, Blu-ray $39.99]

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