Margaret, the long-delayed second film from Kenneth Lonergan, expends great effort to feel as real as possible throughout its achingly long three hour running time (I watched the Extended Cut – the Theatrical is “only” 2.5 hours). As the camera gently moves through scenes, the audio often picks up snatches of unrelated conversation, obfuscating the main actors’ dialogue, as though the camera were truly moving through a crowded restaurant or between apartments.
The performances resonate with similar realism; a lovelorn, rejected teenage boy; intelligent teachers, sympathetic but unenthusiastic; a successful theatre actress filled with brittle insecurity – each character is convincing, the actors confidently inhabiting them. Anna Paquin, as the eponymous Margaret, does a superlative job playing the most realistic-seeming teenager I’ve seen on film, filled with confused emotions and possessing an articulateness that disappears when these emotions rise to the surface.
Amongst the realism there are some truly moving moments. But the film is too long, and unfocused; the story concerns Margaret’s involvement with a shocking bus accident and its ramifications, but there’s not enough to this to shoulder a three hour film, especially as so many plot developments are predictable if you don’t have the perspective of a naïve teenager.