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April Showers: Kenneth Lonergan's Margaret

In April Showers, Team TFE looks at our favorite waterlogged moments in the movies. Here's Chris on Margaret (2011).

If you missed Kenneth Lonergan's Margaret during it's microscopic release in 2011, you aren't alone. The film spent four years in the editing room after wrapping in 2005, leading to a litigious post-production and a bare bones theatrical run. Even with its bursting ensemble of recognizable faces like Mark Ruffalo, Matt Damon, and lead Anna Paquin, Margaret couldn't get an audience without promotion, so it died.

But if you ever want to complain about Film Twitter, remember Margaret as the poster child for its ability to create a movement around a worthy film. Thanks to #TeamMargaret, led mostly by the film's passionate British fanbase, word of mouth (and curiosity) spread quickly. Eventually distributor Fox Searchlight made the film more readily available, even sending screeners out to a handful of critics for end-of-the-year consideration. The home release also features an extended version closer to Lonergan's original intention.

Sometimes we just miss a masterpiece, but they always have a way of coming back. (more after the jump)...

Like our last installment of April Showers, the shower scene is brief but evocative. In this film, the quick moment is a metaphor as sharp and brutal as the inciting tragedy.

Lisa (Anna Paquin) has come home from witnessing a stranger's death by bus accident, covered in blood. She'd held and coaxed the woman (Allison Janney - I told you it's a loaded cast!) through the trauma, creating a trauma for herself far too intense for her teenage mind to manage. Lisa spends the film trying to absolve her own feelings of guilt in the accident by seeking some kind of justice for the dead woman, but really she's just flailing and deepening the wounds. Here as she washes the blood of a stranger off of her body, it splashes and splatters on the walls - the mess isn't on Lisa, but it still surrounds her.

And then, in a blink-and-you-miss-it moment (that is underlined slightly more in the film's extended version) you see Lisa's mother Joan (J. Smith-Cameron) washing the blood off of her daughter's boots. There are several brawls to come in the film between mother and daughter, but Joan's discovery of Lisa's later actions is measured and protective. If the blood in the shower represents Lisa's myopic carelessness, this act of kindness foretells the compassion underneath the film's central contentious relationship.

The moment's contrast of opera and intimacy is a recurring theme throughout the film, one that is remarkably perceptive of the teenage psyche and of the coping mechanisms of post-9/11 America. It's exhausting, but it is also brilliant.

Kenneth Lonergan received his first Oscar success with You Can Count On Me and could potentially be returning to the awards fray this year with Manchester by the Sea. Regardless of release, Margaret would have likely been too prickly for Oscar, though I suspect it's passionate devotees will keep it alive for some time. Have you seen Margaret yet?

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Reader Comments (12)

One of the scenes (and films, and performances) that I think about most from this decade. #TeamMargaret4Life

April 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

I saw I think the theatrical version of it as I thought it was a good film despite its flaws.

April 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSteven

I can't help but feel Paquin would've had a bigger pre-True Blood had this come out when it should've. She's amazing in this. Such a, umm, "strident" performance in the best way. Give Anna more work!

April 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMojo

One of my favourite films of the decade, and although Anna Paquin's lead performance rightly gets a lot of acclaim (if only someone else would give her a role this challenging!), J. Smith Cameron and Jeannie Berlin provide excellent support. I actually think the theatrical cut has a little more punch than the longer cut, but it's such an individual achievement.

April 15, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterben1283

Allison Janney was heartbreaking in her small turn here. I'll never get over when she's being cradled by Anna, she stares at the sky and asks, "Are my eyes open?" The fact that she couldn't tell for herself was devastating.

April 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJames from Ames

Excellent film, deserves to be better known.

April 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDoctor Strange

One of my favorite films, period. Never gave too much thought to this scene, but that's only because there are so many meaningful ones throughout the movie.

April 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLucky

I never knew what people meant when they called a film a flawed masterpiece until watching this. Brilliant for the most part, but some scenes were rushed and poorly edited which took away said scenes emotional heft.

I can't recall which version I saw but maybe I should check out the other version to compare the two.

April 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMDA

Loved this movie, warts and all. Saw it via Netflix a few years ago at the urging of's Andrew O'Hehir and so glad I did. Great performances - particularly by Alison Janney and Jeannie Berlin. Have to see it again, and soon.

April 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRob

This film was the first time my boyfriend of then-10 years ever saw me cry. Not only that but I was inconsolable for 10 minutes after the credits finished rolling

I have no words for how much I love this movie. I can only talk about it through tears drool and snot

I wish Paquin and indeed the rest of the film's women (including the much-missed used-to-be-everywhere-then-what-happened Rosemarie deWitt) got better big screen opportunities

April 15, 2016 | Unregistered Commentergoran

I saw this once, years ago, and thought it was spectacularly annoying. And I LOVED You Can Count on Me. Maybe I wasn't in the right frame of mind? I don't remember it well enough to comment on it more substantively, but I remember having a strong negative reaction to Anna Paquin's performance.

April 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

I still don't get it. This is one of the worst films I have EVER seen. There is absolutely nothing good about this film: bad writing, bad directing, HORRIBLE acting. It blows my mind how people can call this a masterpiece.

April 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJerry Maguire

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