Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Margaret (2011)

"Because this isn't an opera! And we are not all supporting characters 
to the drama of your amazing life!"
Anna Paquin
At a glance:
If you're wonderin why Anna Paquin and Matt Damon look so young in this movie, look no further than the production dates. Margaret is indeed the troubled project that was filmed way back in pre-True Blood 2005 and went through the post-production hell of havin a director (Kenneth Lonergan, usin most of the cast from his 2000 debut You Can Count On Me) who reportedly couldn't be happy with whatever cut he came up with, thus suspendin release for years and got himself embroiled in multiple lawsuits. I've seen the 150-min studio version and it's rather drainin, to say the least, so God knows what's in the 186-min Blu-Ray extended cut release. On the surface, it's a drama about a disaffected young woman (Anna Paquin) who unintentionally distracted a bus driver (Mark Ruffalo) and contributed towards a fatal traffic accident, thus bein thrown into a frenzied state of self-reflection and bizarre catharsis. After about an hour in though, you get the feelin this is almost a Mike Leigh movie about guilt, atonement and brokenness, not to mention other darker aspects of the human condition, built on the back of post-9/11 anxieties in Manhattan. Movie title is a reference to a poem read out to the main character - Gerard Manley Hopkins's Spring and Fall: To A Young Child.
"We do the American thing. We sue!"
Bad news on the doorstep:
Variety's Justin Chang impressively summarised it as a "time-capsule that arrives bearing all the scars of its difficult gestation... hyperarticulate but rarely eloquent, full of wrenchingly acted scenes that lack credible motivation or devolve into shrill hectoring" and also that it's an "angry, cacophonous storm of a movie, and like the horrific bus accident that sets it in motion, hard to turn away from, though only self-selecting pockets of the arthouse faithful will likely strap themselves in to begin with." I have more sympathy for the movie but it's still a muddled picture that asks too much from an audience. Man must have thought it was a theatre play. Oh, no surprise - I just read that his background is in theatre!
Perennial wonderment:
It's heartenin to see Anna Paquin return to the kind of angst that made her a record-settin young Oscar-winner in The Piano (1993). Since then I've only seen her hammin it up for inconsequential roles like Rogue in the X-Men movies but I do remember her memorably seducin an older man in The Squid And The Whale (2005). She's always playin angry characters, so perhaps there's a range limitation here? I don't watch TV so I don't know about how she is in True Blood. In any case, she's a mum now, so let's hope that will add some depth to her future roles.

Reminds me of:
Why is Mark Ruffalo always playin a reckless killer driver? I'm thinkin Reservation Road (2007). Are there more? Let me know.
Watch out for:
J. Smith-Cameron (Man On A Ledge, 2012) offers a wonderful, layered performance as a detached mother with her own relationship issues while Jean Reno, Matt Damon, Allison Janney and Matthew Broderick play out some half-significant support.
Most memorable line:
No spoilers now.
Amacam joker, berapa bintang lu mau kasi?
Next Projection's Kevin Ketchum went through the DVD specs and ultimately found the extended movie to be a resoundin masterpiece, callin it a "transcendent... once-in-a-generation distillation of an era". That wonderful, huh? My review is based on the 150-min version that I watched and on the strength of that, I'm not about to see the full intended film to find out. ★★1/2