The film maudit of last year and in some critics’ estimation, one of the best (taking the number 20 spot in Film Comment’s Best Films of 2011 poll). The story of self-involved teenager Lisa’s emotional turmoil after witnessing (and perhaps in some way causing) the death of a pedestrian hit by a bus, Margaret was shot in 2005, and then spent years in the editing room as writer-director Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on Me) battled with producers and the film’s eventual distributor, Fox Searchlight, over its running time. (At one point there was rumored to be a four-hour cut.) Flawed and uneven though it may be, Margaret, whose title is derived from the poem “Spring and Fall: To a young child” by Gerard Manley Hopkins, is a film of risk-taking ambition that deserves its due as a fascinating and often wrenching drama of moral crisis in post-9/11 New York. The acting alone is worth the price of admission, beginning with Anna Paquin as Lisa, and continuing through J. Smith-Cameron as her mother, Matt Damon and Matthew Broderick as two of her teachers, Mark Ruffalo as the bus driver, and, above all, Jeannie Berlin, who practically steals the movie with an indelible performance as the dead woman’s justice-seeking best friend.
This film has no current screenings