Saturday, July 21, 2012
notes on margaret
The DVD is out, including two cuts. The one that was in theatres, of which the director approved, and a second cut by the director himself. Since the editing of the film was a big brouhaha, it adds interest to see what Lonergan himself would have done - or, in fact, has done - with the film.
It's well known that there's been endless offscreen drama with this one, leading up to production and particularly afterward. There's validity on both sides of the controversy: the studios may well have looked at a film that doesn't have a story-driven structure and wanted an edit that would pull the narrative to the fore - and who can blame them, they stood to lose millions - while the director stuck to his vision, of a different sort of film altogether. More like a novel (that's not written by Stephen King or John Grisham), with a story that meanders, takes time to simply investigate a life, spends time on scenes and events that don't add to the flow or build momentum, but are simply experiences the character has.
Ursula LeGuin proposed what she called the "carrier bag" approach to fiction, as opposed to more linear, story-driven narrative. More observational, less cause-and-effect. It's very common, as I mentioned, in literary novels. And that's how Margaret feels to me.
Lonergan is perfectly capable of the well-structured story. You Can Count On Me is terrific that way, while also being non-Hollywood, non-King/Gresham. It's just that Margaret is different.
Lots of fun actors: Mark Ruffalo (whose break was You Can Count On Me), Stephen Adly Giurgis (who wrote Jesus Hopped The A Train and The Last Days Of Judas Iscariot), Jean Reno, Matt Damon, Matthew Broderick (Ferris Bueller, no longer skipping class - as in Election), and of course Anna Paquin.
The Lear scene reminded me so much of Frederick Buechner's great high school English class scene in Open Heart (97-101). An important scene for Buechner: he includes the whole section in Telling The Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy and Fairy Tale (26-30). Far and away, two of Buechner's finest books.
I wonder how many films have names for titles - which aren't the name of a character in the film. Particularly effective here, and another of the touches that makes the film at least hover around the edges of Christian faith. As does You Can Count On Me.