Once-troubled 'Margaret' grows longer
A version 37 minutes longer than the original
screens at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Anna Paquin stars.
By Mark Olsen, Special to the Los Angeles Times
7:05 PM PDT, July 18, 2012
The saga of writer-director Kenneth Lonergan's
nearly lost film "Margaret" had yet another
chapter written in Los Angeles this week. Shot in
2005, the movie starring Anna Paquin was beset by
post-production delays and legal disputes and
finally opened in near-empty movie houses last
fall. Following a year-end critical caucus around
the film, including much online championing of
its underdog status, it had a moderately more
successful second-go at theaters early this year.
Recently released on home video, "Margaret" was
shown Tuesday in a 3-hour, 6-minute extended
version to a full house at the Los Angeles County
Museum of Art. (That cut is available only as
part of a new 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD set along with
the 2-hour, 29-minute theatrical version.)
Among the crowd were filmmakers Michael Mann and
Jay Duplass, musician Michael Des Barres,
actresses Winona Ryder, Molly Shannon and Jane
Adams, and Paquin's husband and "True Blood" costar Stephen Moyer.
Before the screening, Lonergan explained why the
three-hour version was billed as an "extended
cut." "I don't say it's a director's cut. That
means the other one was something you didn't mean
and this is, and that's not true. So perhaps it's
simply a totemic symbol of my indecisiveness."
The inclusion of 37 more minutes of footage does
make the two versions of "Margaret" quite
distinct, though the core story is the same:
Paquin's character Lisa grapples with guilt over
her role in a bus accident that took the life of
a stranger. In supporting roles are Jeannie
Berlin, Mark Ruffalo, Matt Damon, Matthew
Broderick, Allison Janey, Jean Reno, Kieran
Culkin and Lonergan's wife, J. Smith-Cameron.
The theatrical version is more propulsive, a
ruminative freight train pushing Lisa through the
world as the film morphs into something akin to a
legal thriller. The extended cut heightens the
thematic idea that Lisa is awakening to the fact
that the world does not revolve around her, that
other people have problems of their own.
There are a number of scenes not in the
theatrical version including a visit to an
abortion clinic previously referenced but not
seen. The sound design in the extended cut turns
the volume up on what should be background
conversations, most spectacularly in a diner
scene in which Lisa spurns an aspiring male
suitor as banal chatter drowns them out.
"In life you do end up having really awkward
horrible conversations in places that are public
and you can hear someone at the next table having
a kind of random and trivial conversation.... And
it sort of makes it that much worse somehow,"
said Paquin during the post-screening Q&A.
Most people who see the film in its new
incarnation on home video will be meeting
"Margaret" for the first time. Asked which
version newcomers to "Margaret" should watch
first, Lonergan said he didn't think it mattered.
"I hope they're different enough that they're
both worth watching, as opposed to feeling like
you just saw the same thing," he said. "I think
the most accurate way to describe it is they are
two different approaches to the same story, and I think they are both valid."