Margaret: The Only Living Girl in New York

by Ethan Alter September 30, 2011 1:30 pm
<i>Margaret</i>: The Only Living Girl in New York

After a nearly six-year stint in the editing room, Kenneth Lonergan's long-delayed sophomore feature Margaret finally arrives in theaters still feeling somewhat unfinished. The version of the film that opens in (extremely) limited release today is rife with jarring tonal shifts, clunky dialogue, overly mannered performances and least a half-dozen subplots that lead nowhere. And yet despite -- or maybe, because of -- the movie's free-form messiness, it possesses a vitality that more carefully manicured studio movies, even one like last week's exceptionally well-crafted Moneyball, sometimes lack. Margaret is a movie that demands the viewer's attention and engagement throughout its sprawling two-and-a-half hour runtime, as Lonergan spins his tale without directing us as to how we should react to or feel about what's unfolding onscreen. It's only in the film's moving, but perhaps too-literal, final scene that his intentions become clear. Margaret is a music-less opera, complete with screaming matches that resemble arias and plenty of heightened emotion and melodrama played against the beautiful backdrop that is New York City.

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