Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 241: Sat Aug 30

Margaret (Lonergan, 2011): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 3.10pm

This film was famously buried by Fox studios and there was just one late press screening in Britain. I wrote about the tortured pre-release history here. But Kenneth Lonergan's follow up to the excellent You Can Count On Me gained a second life thanks to critics enthused by one of the best American film in recent years championing this superb movie.

Here the film screens in the Teenage Kicks season and can also be seen on 31 August. Details here.

This is Peter Bradshaw's review from the Guardian to the time of release:
Since 2000, when he made his mark with a tremendous debut, You Can Count on Me, Kenneth Lonergan has been absent from the radar as a director. The reason turns out to have been years of acrimonious studio argument over the length of his followup project, a post-9/11 New York drama in a world of trauma, rage, blame, overtalking and interrupting. Originally conceived as a three-hour movie, it has been allowed into cinemas in a two-and-a-half hour cut.

Perhaps Lonergan is content with this and perhaps not, but the resulting movie is stunning: provocative and brilliant, a sprawling neurotic nightmare of urban catastrophe, with something of John Cassavetes and Tom Wolfe, and rocket-fuelled by a superbly thin-skinned performance by Anna Paquin. Its sheer energy and dramatic vehemence, alongside that raw lead performance, puts it way ahead of more tastefully formed dramas.

Paquin plays Lisa, the daughter of divorced parents: a mouthy, smart-but-not-that-smart teen at private school, sexy but emotionally naive, self-absorbed and scarily hyper-articulate in the language of entitlement and grievance. She may have inherited drama-queen tendencies from her mother Joan (J Smith-Cameron), a Broadway stage star, with whom she lives in New York. One day, after an encounter of pouting defiance with her exasperated mathematics teacher (Matt Damon), Lisa takes it into her head to buy a cowboy hat. She sees a bus driver wearing one she likes: he is played by Mark Ruffalo. With a teenager's heedless disregard for the consequences, she flirtatiously runs alongside his bus, waving wildly, asking where he got it. He smiles back at her, taking his eyes off the road – with terrible results.

Lisa is overwhelmed with ambiguous emotion at having contributed to a disaster and then participated in a coverup, and, compulsively driven to do something, draws everyone into a whirlpool of painful and destructive confrontations. But is that emotion guilt or righteousness? Or a sociopathic convulsion, a need to create a huge redemptive drama with herself at the centre, to lash out against her mother and the entire adult world; or to enact vengeance against a man who, without trying, has placed her in a position of weakness – at the very point at which she considers she should be attaining her adult, queen-bee status? Paquin creates that rarest of things: a profoundly unsympathetic character who is mysteriously, mesmerically, operatically compelling to watch.

Here is the trailer.

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