Lonergan's extended 'Margaret' is an even richer experience

Posted by · 8:54 am · July 9th, 2012

Two versions of Kenneth Lonergan’s “Margaret” finally reach a large audience tomorrow as the film makes its way to DVD/Blu-ray. Included will be the theatrical cut of the film and an extended (not “director’s”) cut.

Speaking last week with Eric Kohn at indieWIRE (which will be hosting a special New York screening of the extended cut tonight), Lonergan said, “It was nice to have the liberty to explore and go into depth in certain areas I felt were interesting to touch on and suggest in the theatrical release…it’s unusual to have the chance to do both of your ideas for a project instead of picking just one.”

Indeed, the extended version was a way for Lonergan to explore his ideas for the film outside of the constraints of a 150-minute time limit he agreed upon with the studio. It doesn’t turn the film into a new experience per se, but I feel like it injects more patience into the overall design and structure of the narrative. And to me, it’s a better movie.

I loved the theatrical cut for different reasons. The edits made the film feel a touch inelegant, which I thought actually worked in its favor. At the time I called it “a messy but truthful construction…[i]t bears the scars but wears them as a badge of honor and, in some ways, they become inherently tied to the themes being explored.”

With a handful of added scenes, extended moments and contextualizations, however, the three-hour version is a deeper breath. The filmmaking seems to take another step back to observe Lisa Cohen’s plight and marinate in what she’s going through all the more.

One scene in particular was just stunning, an aural assault from peripheral conversations as she tries to come to immediate grips with the accident she’s recently witnessed while talking with her (lovestruck) best guy friend in a restaurant. Other added elements include a follow-up to a scene in which Lisa loses her virginity and a theater class discussion that dissects the overly heightened drama of adolescent emotion (one of the film’s many themes) with precision. Both scenes give actor Kieran Culkin more to work with.

There’s also a re-inserted sequence that expands on a bombshell Lisa drops later in the film’s third act. I’m wary of discussing it at length, but it’s particularly fascinating to me because, without it, one could argue that Lisa’s bombshell raised some intriguing questions in the theatrical cut. How credible was it really? Was it a cry for attention? I liked how vague that made her motivations then, but here, again, it makes for a deeper breath and added context, turning that portion of the film into something slightly different. (And it gives J. Smith-Cameron even more opportunity to shine.)

Anyway, that entire paragraph is annoyingly vague. So I look forward to more people catching the film when it’s released tomorrow and maybe keeping the conversation going. It is a masterpiece, like nothing ever committed to film, I feel. It’s journey has been harrowing and interesting but that’s all backdrop for the rich work Lonergan did on the page as a writer and on the set as a director, working with actors honed in and pitched just right.

Check back tomorrow as Guy will have an interview with Lonergan from the Karlovy Vary Film Festival.

“Margaret” lands on DVD/Blu-ray courtesy tomorrow. Pick one up. It’s worth a blind buy.

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