Margaret (2011)


Okay, I’ve been through both edits of this now, after recommendations from several readers. I get what he is trying to do. I am writing as someone who prefers the Cannes edit of ‘Brown Bunny’ and who eagerly sat through 3 1/2 hours of ‘The Falls’.

I think this is a failure, a failure is the sense that the filmmaker had ambitions that may have been unachievable.

What he wanted, I think is to have two films merged. One that carried a narrative that mattered and carried transformation. And another that conveyed situation, and not just surroundings but an environment that collectively has agency of the same power. You have to see both edits to see this man’s struggle; you can compress the first of these because we have all sorts of narrative enzymes in our digestive system. We can fill in things and often are better off with less.

It is the case that you can make an environmental movie with scant narrative. Greenaway does it all the time. Ruiz. Kar-Wai Wong. And if you are willing to have a smaller, more engaged audience, this is achievable in 150 minutes. What Lonergan wanted to do was to have both and have each drive the other. Moreover, he placed himself and his wife as the contacts, a dual fulcrum between the two.

There are so many dynamics that are necessary to bind this, to make all the parts affect each other the way he designed that taking any one out ruins the structure. If you did not know his ambition, a viewer would hardly see anything wrong. The Paquin character is great, as are the surrounding actors. The city, the tone, the environment is as richly presented as the best Woody Allen Manhattan-anchored movie. But the environment does not have the coherent agency it needs to do what he clearly intended.

I think we have to have a much longer version than 3 hours to accomplish what he attempted. But gosh, the ambition is admirable and all the pieces I can see are amazingly promising. It is no wonder that first rate talent was eager to participate.

Posted in 2015

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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