After six years in limbo, Paquin film sees the light

Dec 2, 2011

Paquin is exciting to watch in Kenneth Lonergan's flawed but often brilliant second feature Margaret

This is American writer director Kenneth Lonergan’s first film since his critically acclaimed debut feature, the sibling drama You Can Count on Me.

Anna Paquin stars as a privileged Manhattan teenager whose life is turned upside down by guilt and the desire for redemption after her innocent actions lead to a traffic accident and a woman’s death. Jean Reno, Matt Damon, and Mark Ruffalo make appearances, as does Lonergan as Paquin’s father.

Margaret was actually filmed six years ago but has been delayed by legal disputes and editing issues, despite help from mentor Martin Scorsesee. Meanwhile, two of its producers, Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella, died.

What a glorious mess! says Keith Uhlich in Time Out. Margaret bursts with ambition in its novelistic, social-drama narrative. "Our attention is grabbed right from the gorgeous slo-mo credits sequence" showing New Yorkers going about their lives in a state of suspended animation.

Originally conceived as a three hour movie, this two-and-a-half-hour cut is stunning, says Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian. “Provocative and brilliant, a sprawling neurotic nightmare", it has something of John Cassavetes and Tom Wolfe, and is "rocket-fuelled by a superbly thin-skinned performance by Anna Paquin”.

Paquin is an exciting performer, says A. O. Scott in The New York Times. And the film feels more like a French movie than a standard American coming of age film. It is "more concerned with candour than with likability and driven less by the mechanisms of a plot than by a ranging, probing interest in personalities and relationships."

Six years of legal limbo and post-production hell have not been kind to Margaret, says Justin Chang in Variety. Troubled and troubling it bears the scars of its difficult gestation. It's hard to turn away from, but only "pockets of the arthouse faithful will likely strap themselves in to begin with".

This fitful film teases with moments of brilliance, says Betsy Sharkey in The Los Angeles Times, only to frustrate in the end. "Margaret is an unrealized dream, one you wish he'd gotten as right as his 2000 debut."

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