On Saturday, February 25 the Film Society of Lincoln Center presented a screening of writer/director Kenneth Lonergan’s little seen film “Margaret.” The showing was part of its “Film Comment Selects” series. The screening took place at the Film Society’s Walter Reade Theatre. “Margaret” is easily one of the best films of 2011…and almost nobody has seen it. The film was actually shot in 2005. One of its rare appearances occurred this past December, when it had brief at run at Cinema Village.
Gavin Smith, editor of “Film Comment” moderated the event. “This is a film that really needed to be in ‘Film Comment Selects’ when we saw how many people were voting for it in our end of year poll,” Smith explained. He pointed out that the film also appeared high up on many top ten lists. Smith added, “It’s really a testament to audience power that the film is here tonight.” Smith said, “There was an on line petition (to have the film in wider release). There has been so much written about this film. There’s an incredible demand for this film to be seen and that’s a very rare phenomenon.”
“Margaret” had a protracted post production history, including legal issues, all of which Lonergan, who was in attendance for a post screening Q & A, declined to go into. Lonergan said, “A lot has been written about it. None of it accurate. I’m frankly more interested in talking about the actual content of the film and the script and all that.” Lonergan said that he was very happy with, and proud of, the version of the film that was released.
Many of the film’s cast members were in attendance, including Matthew Broderick, who was there with wife Sarah Jessica Parker. Anne McCabe, who Lonergan described as, “My wonderful, patient, hard working editor,” was also part of the panel that spoke after the screening.
“Margaret” proved to be compelling, intelligent, observant, extremely well written and acted. The story concerns an Upper West Side high school student, Lisa Cohen, brilliantly played by Anna Paquin. Lisa is partly responsible for a terrible bus accident in which a pedestrian is killed. The after math of the accident is horrible, bloody and quite explicit, but necessary to establish the weight of guilt that Lisa will have to carry and attempt to resolve using the type of heightened perspective that only a teenager can have.
Lonergan elaborated on the idealism of the character of Lisa explaining that at 17 one thinks that she can change the world. The film is also about Lisa’s realization that there is a bigger world outside of her sheltered Upper West Side existence.
“Margaret” has a novelistic structure in which we get to know many aspects of not only Lisa’s life, but the lives of the other characters, particularly Lisa’s mother, so nicely played by J. Smith-Cameron. The relationship between Lisa and her mother forms a vital part of the story. Jeannie Berlin, an incredible and woefully under-used actress plays Emily, one of the accident victim’s friends, with a perfect balance of pathos and humor.
Lonergan was asked if the story, about a New Yorker trying to reconcile a tragic event, had any intended 9/11 overtones. Lonergan said he was writing the script when 9/11 happened and that he was mindful of the film’s parallel to the attack. As for the project’s actual inspiration, Lonergan said it was based on an incident told to him by a girl he knew back when he was in high school. She claimed to have been involved with the bus accident. “The idea of something that big happening to someone that young and having to deal with something that adult struck me as being a very compelling and interesting idea that stayed with me.”
Posted on February 29, 2012, in Feature Articles and tagged Anna Paquin, Cinema Village, Film Comments Selects, Film Society of Loncoln Center, Gavin Smith, J. Smith-Cameron, Jeannie Berlin, Kenneth Lonergan, Margaret, Matthew Broderick, Walter Reade Theatre. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.