When Kenneth Lonergan's MARGARET went before cameras in the fall of 2005, it was merely the filmmaker's long-awaited follow-up to his critically-acclaimed debut, YOU CAN COUNT ON ME. Little did we know then that the wait was just beginning.
Nearly six years after Lonergan wrapped prinicpal photography, Fox Searchlight has slotted MARGARET for a September 30, 2011 release. The film stars Anna Paquin, J. Smith-Cameron, Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo, Jean Reno and lots of other great actors who've become bigger names in the half-decade since they were cast. It is also, sadly, the final film from producers Anthony Minghella and Sidney Pollack. The screenplay I reviewed back in 2004 remains one of the best I've ever read. Here's Searchlight's attempt at capsulizing the story:
MARGARET centers on a 17-year-old New York City high-school student who feels certain that she inadvertently played a role in a traffic accident that has claimed a woman's life. In her attempts to set things right she meets with opposition at every step. Torn apart with frustration, she begins emotionally brutalizing her family, her friends, her teachers, and most of all, herself. She has been confronted quite unexpectedly with a basic truth: that her youthful ideals are on a collision course against the realities and compromises of the adult world.
Given the late September release date, it's a little curious that Searchlight has yet to announce a premiere at one of the major upcoming film festivals (Venice, Telluride* or Toronto). This could indicate that the contentious legal battle over the length of the final cut resulted in a version of the film that is not endorsed by its director (Lonergan's preferred cut reportedly ran in the three-hour range). I contacted Searchlight for comment, and was told they were a) not issuing a press release, and b) had nothing regarding the film's run time at present (though they promised to look into that for me).
Martin Scorsese called an early cut of MARGARET "a masterpiece". Ruffalo, a longtime collaborator and friend of Lonergan's, referred to it as "a female CATCHER IN THE RYE". Will their praise apply to the version being released by Searchlight? We'll find out soon enough.