Anna Paquin, Matt Damon star in 'Margaret': movie review

'Margaret,' about a young girl (Anna Paquin) who believes herself partially responsible for a fatal bus accident, has a stellar cast but struggles for coherence.

Myles Aronowitz/Fox Searchlight Films/AP
Matt Damon and Anna Paquin are shown in a scene from 'Margaret.'

The playwright Kenneth Lonergan's 2000 directorial debut, "You Can Count on Me," was highly auspicious and made a star out of the then all-but-unknown Mark Ruffalo. Five years later Lonergan directed "Margaret," a movie mired in so many reedits and lawsuits that only now is it being released.

I wish I could say it's a resurrected classic but, alas, it's mostly a mess – a 2-1/2-hour mess no less. Anna Paquin plays Lisa Cohen, a bratty private school student in the Upper West Side who spends her time making life miserable for everybody, including herself.

A fatal midtown bus accident involving a pedestrian (Allison Janney) sets up the story line, such as it is. Lisa believes herself partially responsible for it, and blames the bus driver (Ruffalo) even more. Lonergan (who appears in a cameo as Lisa's divorced dad) is clearly going for a portrait of a young woman mired in post-traumatic stress, but his New York seems to be inhabited exclusively by stressed-out types. His dialogue is often smart and literate, but he can't seem to stage a scene without working it into a full-throated argument.

Besides the aforementioned, a lot of good actors pass through this yellorama, including Jeannie Berlin, J. Smith-Cameron, Matt Damon, and Matthew Broderick. Audiences not aware that "Margaret" was filmed in 2005 will be forgiven for thinking that the cast looks remarkably young. Grade: C (Rated R for strong language, sexuality, some drug use, and disturbing images.)

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