Posted by: greercn | December 15, 2011

Margaret

Anna Paquin is an amazing actress and deserves a much better career than the one she has. “Margaret” should have been released a few years ago and the course of Paquin’s career would have been very different if problems in completing this had been resolved earlier,  as this performance is a  triumph for her.

Okay, she lives as half of a celeb couple and has a hit TV show, in “True Blood”, which is a cut above most other vampire tweenie shows . Bono and Geldof will not be writing a single to help her, this Christmas.

But “Margaret”, for all its problems, including a punishing 150-minute length, is a much better than average film. Paquin should have got the plum roles that are going to Natalie Portman and Carey Mulligan. 

The movie tries to cram too much in. “Margaret” succeeds best when it is in the classroom or at home. It fails when it tries to take on 9/11 and the Middle East in a few glib sentences. And it bores when the legal sub plot lingers just a little too long.

Lisa Cohen (Paquin) is a 17-year-old private school student in New York City. She witnesses a bus accident, tells a swift lie and tries to set it right.

That’s the bare bones of the story. J Smith-Cameron – a new name for me – is Lisa’s mother Joan who has a successful acting career and two children. She is divorced.

Smith-Cameron gives a nuanced and glorious performance. The trials of mother/daughter love, the struggles of career and single parenthood and the warmth of romance are all beautifully portrayed in her face, words and gestures.

Jean Reno as Joan’s boyfriend, Ramon, has a voice that drifts to Paris too often for the Colombian businessman he is meant to be playing, but I could watch him reading the alphabet and I’d be happy.

There is some lovely use of opera as part of the story which will delight those who adore opera.

“Margaret” isn’t the name of any of the characters, but is from a poem Lisa studies in school. I am not sure that reference to alienation and troubles completely works here – it goes by too quickly – but it does focus your attention on Lisa’s increasingly troubled state of mind.

Matt Damon is Lisa’s English teacher and he is underused. Indeed, he features in some of the choppier moments in editing that glare out of this, as if director/writer Kenneth Lonergan (“Gangs of New York”) suddenly realised money had been spent on Damon and a little more time on screen was needed for the viewer to see him.

Most of the family dialogue, chat between friends and attenuated conversations with parents who are far away just feels spot on.

The film annoys when it tries to say too much about 9/11 and the Middle East and these scenes and the legal scenes could have been trimmed to have more of Smith-Cameron.

A little more of Mark Ruffalo as the bus driver would have been good too.

I saw it with a friend at the very beautiful Notting Hill Gate Picturehouse, while sipping on a mug of superior mulled wine. We sat in comfy armchairs with lots of leg room and both of us enjoyed it, with reservations.

This should be re-edited. There is an utterly outstanding film here, hidden in a very entertaining but too often episodic and disjointed film.

The contrast in class is not shown often enough in American movies and there is a great deal of depth in the economic and entitlement contrasts of the bus driver’s neighbourhood and Lisa’s home.

It’s worth seeing. It’s finished at the small but perfectly-formed Gate now, but Hackney, Stratford and Greenwich Picturehouses all have performances of it during the next week or too.

Do see it and marvel at the performances of Paquin and Smith-Cameron.

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Responses

  1. thanks for share. thumbs up! sven


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