Tuesday, April 17, 2012


In late February, I saw Margaret at the Viz. Fewer people know what the Viz is anymore. It feel strange to call it the FSC or Film Society Cinema. I don't know how many times I've been to a screening and hear someone in the audience say "I never knew this existed." For the record, I still prefer the all-Japanese programming the venue had before the San Francisco Film Society took it over.

I've noticed the SFFS has screened a number of films from the 2011 San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF) at the FSC. In addition, on May 4 (immediately after the 2012 SFIFF closes), they are screening The Day He Arrives which is in the 2012 SFIFF program. SFFS is stocking their regular programming with their film festival choices which devalues both commodities. I would understand if there is great demand for these films but every regular SFFS screening I've been to has been sparsely attended.

Margaret has had a most interesting film distribution history. Filmed in 2005, but stuck in post-production purgatory for six years, Margaret was released last September. After a brief theatrical run, the film would be expected to fade into DVD/VOD afterlife. Instead, film critics began singing its praises and asking for screeners during the period when critics create "Best of" and "Top Ten" lists. This resulted in a second theatrical run which is how I saw it in February.

As D'Angelo's column summarizes, Margaret is about Lisa Cohen (Anna Paquin), an upper middle class teenager in Manhattan. She inadvertently contributes to a bus accident and death which sends her into existential chaos with a bit of teenage angst/selfishness thrown in.

The 150 minutes, the film meanders into different plot lines as Lisa attempts to make amends for what she considers false & misleading statements to the police at the time of the accident investigation. Along the way, we see Lisa's divorced mother (J. Smith-Cameron) deal with her insecurities and begin dating. We also see Lisa's bond with her father (who lives in California) erode. Lisa loses her virginity to a teenage drug dealer Kieran Culkin and later seduce her teacher (Matt Damon).

Recounting the plot doesn't add much. There is Point A and Point B and multiple paths between the two are explored. Once we get to Point B, Lisa hasn't been transformed but rather evolved. With plenty of personal shortcomings, Lisa is not the hero nor is she the anti-hero. She is like the non-hero, protagonist.

Whatever Lisa is, Margaret is an incredibly compelling film. I got sucked into the stories and experienced the full spectrum of emotions.

The title of the film comes from a poem Lisa's English class reads - Spring and Fall: to a Young Child by Gerald Manley.

Margaret starring Anna Paquin; with Mark Ruffalo, Matt Damon & Jeannie Berlin; directed by Kenneth Lonergan; (2011) - Official Website

No comments: