Fox Searchlight’s L.A. publicists didn’t invite me to their recent Margaret screenings on the lot, and they’re not sending out screeners and it’s not playing theatrically in New York or Los Angeles but somehow or some way I’ll eventually see it. Hey, Kenneth Lonergan — I’m in NYC from 12.15 (tomorrow) through 12.26. Let me know if you hear of any showings.
Everyone knows the background but for those who don’t, here’s a just-posted Margaret summary from N.Y. Times critic Manohla Dargis: “To recap briefly, Mr. Lonergan had a difficult time finishing the movie; received editing help from [Martin] Scorsese; entered into legal wrangling; and a 2 hour 29 minute cut — not Mr. Lonergan’s longer preferred cut — received a cursory, perhaps contractually obligated theatrical release by Fox Searchlight.
“It was reviewed, somewhat favorably, if often with hesitations and qualifications, and then disappeared after four weeks only to become the subject of a passionate campaign to have it reshown to critics for awards voting.
“I saw the movie finally a few weeks ago and was surprised by how much I liked it, despite its unevenness. I really admire its ambition. It makes such a stark contrast to so much American independent cinema, less in terms of budget and production scale than in its towering ambition toward that most fascinating subject: another human being. Part of what Mr. Lonergan has in mind is nothing less than the inner life of a teenager, Lisa (Anna Paquin): not just her boy problems and mother troubles but the entirety of her being at a certain moment in post-Sept. 11 time on the Upper West Side, New York, the United States, the World, the Universe.
A.O. Scott: “Margaret is most certainly a movie that fights, like its young heroine, to free itself from received wisdom and genre conventions. It tries to take account of that feeling of bigness, of mystery, that lurks within ordinary experience. I’m afraid it scores, at best, a Pyrrhic victory. There are scenes as wild and insightful as anything on screen this year: the fatal bus accident that sets the story in motion; the awkward, funny, ruthlessly serious sex scene involving Ms. Paquin and Kieran Culkin; the angry, precocious classroom political debates.
“But then, after about 90 amazing minutes, it all falls apart. The writing becomes more shrill, the scenes choppier, the themes at once hectically muddy and overemphatic. And a story that seemed so wonderfully expansive dwindles back into anecdote.”