Last night at the Sunshine Cinema in New York, Indiewire hosted a special event for the home video debut of Kenneth Lonergan's troubled epic "Margaret," which included the very first screening of the new "extended cut" (it's not exactly a director's cut of the film, read our interview with Lonergan here) along with an extensive post-screening Q&A hosted by Tony Kushner that featured Lonergan and several members of the movie's sprawling cast (among them: Mark Ruffalo, J. Smith-Cameron, Matthew Broderick, Jeannie Berlin, and John Gallagher Jr.). This new cut runs a whopping 3 hours and 8 minutes and features several radical additions/alterations, and with the Q&A running nearly an hour, well, it added up to a long night. Spoilers follow.
"Margaret," as we know it, is a sprawling, occasionally frustrating drama about a feisty, hyper-intelligent young girl named Lisa (played by Anna Paquin, before she moved to Bon Temps) and the aftermath of a bus accident she is partially responsible for. "Novelistic" would be a good way to describe it, and it was unlike anything that came out last year – a deeply emotional, beautifully realized marathon of a movie.
What the longer cut does, mostly, is make every scene slightly longer – dialogue (like a post-coital interlude between Paquin and a superbly off-putting Kieran Culkin) rambles on, poetic shots of airplanes as they cruise through the New York skyline linger (yes, there are even more in this version), and the whole thing takes on a kind of "real time" feeling – that we're watching these conversations or sequences play out as they would in reality. Like "24," except with an emphasis on talking instead of thwarting terrorist attacks.
Interestingly, the major difference between this extended cut and the version that was shown (ever-so-briefly) in theaters last fall isn't so much the content but the way that it sounds. To explain: in this new version, dialogue from our principle characters is often loudly interrupted by conversations by passersby or strangers. Sometimes this works incredibly well – there's an amazing shot that pans across the windows of several of Anna Paquin's neighbors, where we hear snippets of conversations in each one. When we finally settle in on Paquin's room, where she's talking with a school chum, that conversation is occasionally interrupted by the conversations that we had just heard. Another, wholly new scene in the movie, set in a restaurant, features Paquin talking to her buddy (Gallagher Jr.) about why they shouldn't date and for much of the scene we're listening into the conversation of two elderly women at the booth right next to theirs. It's fascinating and often doesn't make total sense (in any kind of physical reality these conversations shouldn't carry like they do) and much of the time is undone by what seems to be hasty ADR (the sound mix is often unintentionally wonky – but then again we can't imagine anyone spending any extra money on the extended version).