Friday, November 23, 2012


Anna Paquin, J. Smith-Cameron, Jean Reno,
Mark Ruffalo, Matt Damon,
Matthew Broderick, Jeannie Berlin

Set in New York City, this turbulent and provocative drama is about the loss of innocence. It is beautifully drawn out by an excellent performance by Anna Paquin. She plays Lisa Cohen, a 17 year old student who believes she caused the bus accident in which a woman was killed. Tormented by her guilt, she sets into motion her plan to correct her misdeed. 

In the process, she alienates her family, her friends and her life. Growing up in a post 9/11 society, her idealism seems to be constantly thwarted by circumstances beyond her manipulative control.

Mostly dialogue driven with many intensely dramatic moments all unfolding at the same time, "Margaret" was a bit disturbing to watch.  Running at almost 3 hours, most of the scenes are filled with antagonistic tension.  Yet at the same time, Director Kenneth Lonergan wanted to spare the audience from witnessing too much drama, by ever so often switching to scenes of slow motion scenery and music filled background images.

By the way, no character in this film is named Margaret. The title refers to a character in a Gerald Manley Hopkins poem "Spring and Fall: to a young child".  A poem read during one of the classes attended by Lisa.   But it does somehow parallel Lisa's chaotic life.

Lisa is a multi dimensional character, the daughter of divorced parents, she has an affluent lifestyle in upstate Manhattan.  Her mother, Joan (J. Smith-Cameron) a Broadway actress who recently starts dating a Colombian software developer (Jean Reno) mostly laments about the strained relationship with her impertinent daughter.   Her father lives in the West Coast and they have significant phone conversations which deal with fleeting matters.  Lisa is highly opinionated and very self absorbed and her somewhat racist views often leads to heated arguments with her classmates.  

The plot is quite complex - you have the ups and downs of the police investigation, the legal battle with the bus company, Lisa's complicated personal, family and school life.  It also too many characters all jostling for adequate screen time. But they are portrayed by a good ensemble cast composed of talented actors like Matt Damon, Matthew Broderick and Mark Ruffalo.

The main draw is Anna Paquin.  She is able to reel us into Lisa Cohen's life by creating a profoundly unsympathetic and quite frankly a very detestable character who is mysteriously, provocatively compelling to watch.

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