Directed by Kenneth Lonergan
Starring Anna Paquin, J. Smith-Cameron, Mark Ruffalo, Jeannie Berlin, Matt Damon
It’s heartbreaking to watch a movie implode so spectacularly after such a promising first hour.
“Margaret” centers on Lisa (Paquin), an Upper West Side teen who becomes wracked with guilt after she inadvertently causes a fatal bus accident.
As the daughter of an emotionally unavailable actress and a father on the other side of the country, Lisa is forced to navigate her confused conscience all by herself. Her solitude is painful, as are her subsequent missteps as she embarks on a mission to ensnare the equally culpable bus driver (Mark Ruffalo).
To appreciate “Margaret,” you have to know a little about the long journey that it has undergone. Director Kenneth Lonergan (“You Can Count on Me”) shot “Margaret” in 2005. Since then, the film has been mired in postproduction and litigation hell. One of the alleged points of contention has been the running time, as Lonergan was asked to shorten his three-hour version. The edits are brutally apparent in the awkwardly clipped scenes.
Somewhere toward the end of the first hour, “Margaret” unravels.
Too much exposition has been crammed into too little screen time. It’s simply too many acts for a two-and-a-half-hour movie — or perhaps even for a three-hour one.