In Theatres: 
Oct 07, 2011
Running Time: 
149 minutes

 Movies like Margaret are the reason I hesitate to make a career of film criticism. If it means I have to sit through more garbage of this caliber, I want out.

First off, there is not a single character in the film named Margaret. I know it's petty, but this is my review, my bone to pick. The title comes from a poem read by the protagonist's English teacher, played by Matthew Broderick, who has a grand total of perhaps 10 lines in the entire movie. He's one big name in a slew of them -- Anna Paquin, Mark Ruffalo, Matt Damon (!!), and a surprising amount of very recognizable actors who honestly should've known better after reading the script. Hell, maybe the original, unaltered script is a masterpiece, but in the six years that transpired between shooting and release, it's been mangled and contorted into a Hunchback of Notre Dame of a movie. And Margaret doesn't even have a heart of gold like Quasimodo. Its heart is a high-pitched, nasal assault of whining and overdramatization with the adults not helping matters. If my future children have any possibility of turning out like the main character, I'm making an appointment to get my tubes tied as soon as possible.

Okay, obligatory movie synopsis: Lisa Cohen (Anna Paquin) is a high school student involved in the death of a pedestrian struck by a city bus. This is pretty much the only part of the movie that makes sense. The rest is a confusing mish-mash of classroom debates, complete with spit flying from Paquin's mouth, dinner debates, Lisa's mother's dating life, Lisa's sex life, Lisa's crusade to get the bus driver fired, all peppered with sweeping landscape B-roll that serves absolutely no purpose. The editing is some of the worst I've ever seen. The actors' lips are still moving, but there's no sound at many points. Yeah, it's that bad. I laughed at moments that were not, by any stretch of the imagination, intended to be comical -- but comical they were.

Has a movie ever been so painful to watch that you were just wishing and praying for the end to come? I kept glancing at my watch during the screening, wondering when this torturous experience would end. I thought, as my ass grew ever more numb, "It's been over two hours. Surely Kenneth Lonergan will show some mercy and end this abomination." There was no mercy. The only thing worse than a piss-poor movie is a piss-poor movie that goes on for way too long. Two and a half hours is far, far too long. This is probably the first movie I've ever considered just straight walking out on before it was even over.

To try and personify the movie, you probably have a friend who is terrible at telling stories. They include irrelevant details, they linger too long on unimportant points, they blow small things out of proportion, they tell details out of chronological order, they go off on meaningless tangents that have nothing to do with the original point, and you basically spend a few minutes wondering why you bother to listen to their asinine dribble. You make a mental note, while zoning the hell out, to change their name in your cell phone to 'Do Not Answer.' If Kenneth Lonergan were a contact in my phone, not only would his name be 'Do Not Answer Unless You're Feeling Masochistic,' but his ringtone would be crying babies, to drive home that no good will come of answering his call.

Anna Paquin, please take some time in the future to make sure that your American accent doesn't completely crumble 2/3 into whatever movie in which you're playing an American. It's distracting and sloppy. Jeannie Berlin, I really can't tell if you yourself are a giant gnat of a human being, or if you just played someone who is. I don't want to watch any more of the movies you've been in to find out. Most everyone in this plane crash of a movie was annoying, but I wanted to inflict physical harm on myself any time you had a line. "P.I.? What's a P.I.?" Who doesn't know what the initials for private investigator are? Seriously? The Long Island accent was the nerve-grating cherry on a nails-on-a-chalkboard sundae.

This is the first F I've ever given anything on this website. Given some of the duds I've suffered, please understand the gravity of this particular dud. Dud is actually too light. This movie is an insult to movies, to art, to humanity. I know art doesn't mean what it did 20 years ago, but Lonergan should be ashamed. And yet, simply because this movie took so long to be made by an Oscar-nominated director, a bunch of film nerds are going to give it a proverbial reach-around.

I hate people. Don't see this. Ever. Actually, scratch that. If Anna Paquin's un-brassiered breasts bouncing, both in slow-motion and real-time, sounds at all appealing to you, see it. There's plenty of that to be had.

Review by Patty Miranda