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A surfeit of ideas contributes to Margaret's excessive run time, but Anna Paquin does a admirable job of guiding viewers through emotional hell. Read critic reviews

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Movie Info

New York high-school student Lisa Cohen (Anna Paquin) inadvertently causes an accident in which a bus driver (Mark Ruffalo) runs over a pedestrian (Allison Janney). Guilt-stricken over her role in the woman's death, Lisa's mood swings from normal to furious, with her angry outbursts mostly directed at her mother (J. Smith-Cameron). Lisa reaches out to the dead woman's best friend (Jeannie Berlin) and the bus driver, but her failed efforts to make amends only lead to more hostility.

Cast & Crew

Anna Paquin
Lisa Cohen
Matt Damon
Mr. Aaron
Mark Ruffalo
Jason Berstone
Anthony Minghella
Executive Producer
Ryszard Lenczewski
Cinematographer
Anne McCabe
Film Editor
Michael Fay
Film Editor
Dan Leigh
Production Design
James Donahue
Art Direction
Ron von Blomberg
Set Decoration
Melissa Toth
Costume Designer
Nico Muhly
Original Music
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News & Interviews for Margaret

Critic Reviews for Margaret

All Critics (100) | Top Critics (36) | Fresh (74) | Rotten (26)

  • Knotty, ambitious and trading in messy human truths, it's the work of a master dramatist. Here's hoping Lonergan's next one reaches us a little faster.

    September 29, 2014 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • Margaret is less about plot mechanics than about the virtuosity of the dialogue, the complexity of the characters, and the detail and depth of their untidy world.

    September 29, 2014 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • Even in its truncated state, this is pretty gripping stuff.

    September 26, 2014 | Full Review…
  • It has its flaws, but I defy you to find a more intelligent or impassioned American film this year.

    July 10, 2012 | Full Review…
  • Ambitious, affecting, unwieldy and haunting, it's an eccentric, densely atmospheric, morally hyper-aware masterpiece...

    April 27, 2012 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • Had I seen Margaret in 2011 it would have likely been number two or three on my list of the best films of the year.

    January 27, 2012 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Margaret

  • Apr 05, 2021
    Accidents Will Happen - The Queer Rearview: Margaret ★★★★★ While everyone else has picked apart the differences between the Snyder and Whedon cuts of the Justice League films, this film nerd spent 5 1/2 hours poring over the two versions of a little seen film from 2005 which went from fascinating 2 1/2 hour mess to out and out masterpiece on its journey to writer/director Kenneth Lonergan's 3 hour extended cut, which finally surfaced in 2011. Just a few years after 9/11, Lonergan (You Can Count On Me, Manchester By The Sea) captured a New York City still on edge, when a glance at a jet in the sky still triggered a fearful response. In such an environment, we meet Lisa Cohen (a then 23 year old, pre-True Blood Anna Paquin), a petulant student at an elite prep school who seems to thrive on coming in hot during any debate with a classmate when she's not crushing on her teacher Mr. Aaron (Matt Damon). It's clear from the outset that Lisa, who lives with her single mother Joan (J. Smith-Cameron), a stage actor on the brink of success, and her younger brother, thrives on drama, anger, and a general feeling that the world revolves around her. On one of her whims, she decides to go shopping for a cowboy hat in anticipation of an upcoming ranch vacation with her L.A.-based father Karl, played with low key assurance by Lonergan himself. Out of nowhere, she notices Maretti (Mark Ruffalo) who has a pretty cool hat on as he drives his bus past her. Trying to stop him, they have enough semi-flirtatious exchanges to distract him and cause a terrible accident. Without spoiling anything, the victim, an Academy Award winning actor, makes an unforgettable impression with just a couple of minutes screen time. Lisa, so disturbed by the aftermath, spends the remainder of the story seeking out some sort of justice for the victim. What could have easily descended into a dull, tv movie, turns out to be a way ahead of its time indictment of virtue signaling, entitlement, racial and class privilege, and unfettered self-involvement. With several scenes restored, and the Robert Altman-esque technique of overhearing multiple conversations at once, Lonergan's point, that we have all, at times, wrongly felt that our story is the most important one, gets strongly underscored with his cut. With motivations unclear or out of nowhere in key moments of the original, Lonergan fixes those issues and has produced a clear, sometimes meandering, but powerful, emotionally wrenching experience. Said meandering, in fact, enhances the storytelling, forcing you to focus on the subtext rather than the tried and true legal machinations. We watch Lisa lose her virginity is a cringe-worthy but somehow touching sequence. A very young at the time, John Gallagher Jr. will break your heart when getting dumped by Lisa. Matt Damon, whose character didn't make a lot of sense in the original cut, brings a palpable awkwardness to his many scenes with Lisa. Paquin, who I feel has never been better, takes her characterization way over the edge, fearlessly ignoring or not caring that she comes across as a spoiled brat. She never hesitates to shout over anyone, not caring a whit about anyone's perceptions of her. She has a long way to go towards behaving like an adult, and this film never pretends that a magic bullet exists to get her there. Adding to the maturity of this work, this cast, stacked with such accomplished names as Matthew Broderick, Kieran Culkin, Jean Reno, Allison Janney, Michael Ealy, and Jeannie Berlin, along with those aforementioned, help create a vast, specific world for Lisa to inhabit. In a career-best performance, Berlin in particular galvanizes with her prickly, outspoken, Emily, a close friend of the victim who refuses to let Lisa inflict her immaturity on her without repercussions. Emily describes the victim as impossible to get along with, but watch her tear apart her supposed best friend Dave (Michael Ealy) with aggressions, micro-aggressions, and flat out insults, and you're bearing witness to a layered, difficult supporting character we rarely get to see. Emily is the center of her own story, and damned if she's gonna let Lisa knock her off her perch. The scene in which she cuts loose on the teen is an instant, 16 years in the making classic. An Oscar nominee for 1972's The Heartbreak Kid, Berlin, after a long break, has delivered astounding performances in recent years, none more so than her Oscar-worthy turn here. J. Smith-Cameron, who has gone on to memorable turns in Succession and Search Party, and is married to Lonergan, also gives a fantastic performance as Lisa's insecure but adventurous mother. Typical films about teens don't tend to explore the sexuality of its parents, but her Joan has complexity, nuance, and an endless amount of justified frustration. Margaret, a name in an important poem read in the middle of the film, failed at the Box Office upon initial release in 2011, after 6 years of legal battles. It's a terrible shame for a film which has finally found its rightful placement as truly great. If you're looking for more action, more CGI, more capes, then you know where to go. But flip through the same streaming service if you want something confrontational, rough, and a truly seminal look at a teen you haven't seen before.
    Glenn G Super Reviewer
  • Oct 22, 2015
    It took so many years and two lawsuits to have this film edited and released, but the final result is this bloated and self-important mess of ideas that Lonergan was incapable of putting together cohesively, and it is even worse that the protagonist is so detestable.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Jun 17, 2015
    Hard-hitting and emotionally haranguing, this absorbing, perceptive drama provides plenty of deep thought with a real understanding of the differences between the teenage and adult worlds. Margaret isn't the name of anyone in the movie, it's a character in a poem who laments for her younger self's ability to care about the world in a more urgent manner. Margaret's attitude is reflected in one of the movie's major themes as high schooler Lisa (Anna Paquin) feels responsible for a bus accident that killed a pedestrian. Furthermore, she believes the bus driver is at least equally culpable and who does not demonstrate remorse to her satisfaction, so she takes it upon herself to force him to accept responsibility. I could write a term paper about this movie, and at nearly 3 hours there is plenty of material. With the many hysterical outbursts it's probably a difficult film for a lot of people to enjoy but I was rapt in the characters and story. Credit goes to an outstanding cast - I was only interested in the first place because of Paquin, and she in mostly commanding in a thoroughly draining role - and exceptional writing with an ear for dialogue that captures how people really talk and think. Another theme is perception, and how different viewpoints can come to opposite conclusions with the same information, whether due to generational or cultural or any number of other gaps. New York is also given time to inhabit the screen and leave an indelible mark as a character, although I could have done with fewer camera pans of buildings. The law takes an important part in the story and the movie examines the complicated issues the way great lawsuit movies like 'Erin Brockovich' do, on a ground level during conversations over coffee that everyone can understand instead of during boring courtroom speeches. The complications are fascinatingly distasteful. For instance, if the woman had survived for several days before dying, that would have increased the call for damages significantly. On the other hand, she was consciously clinging to life for several minutes, which calls for a greater monetary reward than someone killed outright. The bulk of the time is spent with Lisa trying to come to terms with what she thinks she's done. She drifts away from her best friends at school and mother, a concerned but neurotic and neglectful stage actress, and spends more time with her math teacher and the victim's best friend. Her cement mixer of emotions also leads her to her first sexual experience in a starkly tender scene of nervousness and anticipation. That was unexpected, which is a big part of what I admired about this film: it continuously strives to find unconventional footing in scene setups that are very familiar and yet the outcomes are very organic. Not everything works, particularly the direction she takes with her math teacher played by Matt Damon didn't jibe. As she experiences this rapid growth cycle, she eventually finds her way back to her innate connection with her mother. "In this country, this is how we punish people who have done bad things." "By getting money from from their employer's insurance companies??"
    Doctor S Super Reviewer
  • Mar 05, 2015
    This is a movie I wanted to see for ages. I even tried to track a dvd copy down, but I could never find it at a reasonable price. My thoughts after finally getting to see it on TV? Thank goodness I never actually purchased it! Don't get me wrong, acting is good. Story is interesting, but it's sooo long, and Anna's character is a brat I couldn't stand. Spoiler....... When she starts rallying to get the bus driver sacked over the accident she caused, I knew I just couldn't with her character. She's always yelling too, just wanted to slap the little madam. Lol. So, yes, ambitious and well made little movie, but definitely not one to rewatch.(For me, anyhow).
    Nicki M Super Reviewer

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