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Blu-ray Review: Margaret (2011)

Seven years ago, actress Anna Paquin was just the chick that played Rogue in the X-Men films from 20th Century Fox and a few forgettable teeny-bopper movies from the last part of the actual 20th century itself. In fact, her popularity appeared to be soaring at that point in time — as she found herself being cast as the lead character in Kenneth Lonergan’s drama, Margaret — a film that would not find its way to cinemas until 2011, after several lengthy lawsuits were initiated between Fox Searchlight Pictures towards the film’s auteur and the various editors hired to cut-and-paste the several years-worth of footage Lonergan shot.

Well, maybe he didn’t film several years-worth, but anyone who checks out Margaret out might have to wonder if he did — especially if they note that the Blu-ray/DVD Combo release of this star-studded indie flick contains the recently-completed 150-minute theatrical version of the film on the Blu-ray disc, and the even longer 186-minute (!) extended cut on the Standard-Definition disc. Sure, the average viewer is bound to notice that the regular edit of the film goes on for a great while, and once you see the longer version, you might speculate what actually did get snipped out altogether.

Of course, the fact that the movie is so long isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I rather enjoyed this film. Here, Paquin plays a young NYC high-school lass named Lisa Cohen, whose efforts to find a bitchin’ cowboy hat one day end in tragedy when her attempt to talk to a city bus driver (the great Mark Ruffalo) results in him running over a pedestrian. I know: big moment of “oops,” right? From there, the already-emotional-enough-as-it-is teen engages in a wobbly balancing act as she tries to cope with her own guilt from the accident, attempts to find some common ground with her separated parents, and deals with those coming-of-age feelings we all felt when we were hormonal adolescents.

Thanks to Martin Scorsese and his longtime assistant Thelma Schoonmaker — who took the time to piece together a cut of the film that everyone was finally happy with, Lonergan’s ambitious melodrama can at long last be seen. The movie features the likes of J-Smith Cameron (as Paquin’s mother), Jean Reno (as her mother’s foreign suitor), and Jeannie Berlin (the best friend of the dead lady), as well as Matt Damon and Matthew Broderick (as Paquin’s teachers).

Fox brings the enjoyable (but time-consuming) feature to home video with a video presentation that isn’t as hot as it could be, but still suffices.  As the lower-budgeted film was shot in the mid ’00s, the image quality wasn’t going to compare with the glossy, glamorous titles of today, but the 1080p presentation remains a clear and sharp throughout, without any unnecessary Digital Noise Reduction crapola.  Likewise, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack delivers admirably. The film is a mostly dialogue-driven piece, so don’t expect lots of booms and explosions.

Special feature-wise, the aforementioned SD-DVD of the Extended Cut is the only added extra here — something that surely suggests the folks at Fox haven’t forgiven Lonergan for dropping the ball on his editing process. Oh, well, I guess this’ll have to do, eh?

Sure, Margaret (the title of the film comes from a poem Broderick’s character reads, incidentally: no one is actually named Margaret in the film) is a pretentious moving picture to say the least, but at least it’s ten-times better than Hurlyburly.

Recommended.

About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of Adam Becvar, a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has wasted a vast majority of his life watching movies - so much so, that a conventional life is no longer in the equation for him. He lives alone (big surprise there) in a rural home with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Really.