Lisa (Anna Paquin) decides that she wants to buy a cowboy hat. While shopping, she sees bus driver Maretti (Mark Ruffalo) wearing one and, with teenage abandon, she chases the bus to find out where he got it. Maretti is distracted, which has devastating consequences and leads Lisa to question her morality.
Margaret, the second film to be directed by Kenneth Lonergan, has been languishing in postproduction for several years. While it was made in 2005, the editing of the film led to legal battles between the filmmaker and the studio, which meant that Lonergan was unable to finish the film to his liking for some time. Margaret has finally been finished and was released in the US last year, but the editing troubles are all too evident on screen.
Margaret clocks in at 150 minutes, which would not necessarily be a bad thing, but this leaves the film scattered and muddled. In the immediate aftermath of the bus accident, Lisa – our protagonist – is shown to be a sweet and clever teenage girl, but she quickly becomes stubborn and rude. She gives a falsified statement to the police – based on a connection she felt with Maretti – and carries on with her life. She uses her sexuality as manipulation and each move she makes appears to be for utterly selfish reasons, including her eventual change of heart about the statement that she made.
Anna Paquin involves herself in the role, but every reaction she has is melodramatic and over the top, leading to tearful screaming matches and sudden changes in attitude. She is little short of annoying throughout the film and it is hard to feel any empathy for such a selfish character. She wants to be martyred and adored, but just comes off as irritating. Mark Ruffalo is equally as selfish during his short time on screen, but his actions appear to be driven by some sort of need in his life. Both matt Damon and Matthew Broderick are pawns in Lisa’s games and if the film had been edited with a degree of ruthlessness and concern for the story, their parts would surely have been cut. Jean Reno’s appearance in the film as Lisa’s mother’s lover is inexplicable and only serves to draw out the extended running time.
In Lisa, Kenneth Lonergan has created a character that has few redeeming qualities. The idea of such a horrific event setting off a chain of events is an interesting one, but the execution in this film left a lot to be desired. The film meanders through Lisa’s life but the character barely appears to be changed by the events that surround her until the very last moment.
In all, Margaret is a good idea, badly executed. The editing woes that dogged the film are all too visible on the screen and this leads to a confused and confusing film.