Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Strange Case of Margaret

I have not seen Kenneth Lonergan's Margaret yet, and it's becoming increasingly unlikely that I will get to see it before I have to do my year end top 10 list (which most likely, will be sometime in January, as I still have too many films to see). Margaret has become a critics cause in the past month or so, which is strange considering that when the film opened on September 30th, according to Rotten Tomatoes, it had a 44% positive review total (it has since grown to 66%) and, according to Box Office Mojo, has grossed a total of $46,495 in North America. And yet, the film has become one of the most critically acclaimed of the year. The Indie Wire poll of over 100 critics ranked the film 9th best of 2011, had Anna Paquin's performance as the best lead performance by an actress of the year (third overall) and listed both Jeannie Berlin and J. Cameron Smith in the top 10 for supporting performances (3rd and 10th) and the screenplay the second best of the year. The Village Voice Poll liked it even more - ranking the film 7th overall, Paquin's performance the best of the year for an actress in a leading role, Berlin as the Best Supporting Actress and the Screenplay as the best of the year. How the hell did that happen?

Margaret has had a troubled journey to the screen. Lonergan shot the film in 2005, and then spent a long time in the editing room. There are at least 2 versions of the completed film - a version close to three hours overseen by producer Martin Scorsese and editor Thelma Schoonmaker and the two and half hour version that has played in theaters. Lonergan says he approves of the Scorsese cut and hopes one day that it can be seen. Somehow all of this ended up in court, delaying the release even more. When Fox Searchlight finally did release the film, on September 30th, 2011, it did so with almost no fanfare - no real advertising push, no support at all. It was, in essence, dumped. The tepid box office and weak intial reviews didn't help, and it was gone before most people even realized it was released. Apparently it did play in Toronto - where I could have seen the film - but I have no idea where it played or for how long. I was interested in seeing the film, as I admired Lonergan's first film You Can Count on Me, and love Scorsese, but I didn't even know the film was playing here.

But sometimes, these things have a way of taking on a life of its own. Critic Jaime Christley, a fan of the film, urged Fox Searchlight to re-release the film, or at least provide screeners for year end award voters, even going as far as to start a petition. So a movie that was largely ignored when it came out became a critical favorite. The film is in fact going to re-released in New York on Friday.

And what of the rest of us? I guess we're going to have to wait. I almost wish they didn't start this whole Margaret movement and simply voted for it on the Indiewire and Village Voice polls like they did. I saw on one wesbite that the film was expected to be released on DVD in January 2012 - which makes sense as it would be about 3 months after its theatrical release - but now here we are in late December, and there is no DVD release date as of yet. And that sucks. Unless Fox Searchlight is going to put the film out in more theaters - back here in Canada for one - than I would rather they simply release the damn thing on DVD. They have taken quite a beating for their treatment of this film, and a quick DVD release would at least end that.

I for one am very curious to see the film. It sounds interesting - even in the reviews of people who didn't like the film. Yet, I cannot help but wonder if the film has become such a critical hit, at least in part, because of the way Fox Searchlight treated the film and the filmmakers. Do critics really love it THIS much, or are some of them getting so worked up about it to make a point. I really have no idea if this is true or not, and I will have no idea until I get a chance to see the film - whenever the hell that may be.

I'm not going to wait for Margaret to post my top 10 list, and related year end wrap up, unless I know a specific date when I'm going to get a chance to see the film - and it doesn't delay things unreasonably. But when I do the wrap-up, it will have a Margaret sized whole in it - and that's a shame.

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