Margaret (2012): 5 star movie

This is a marvellous movie with all the zippy conversational smarts of a better Woody Allen but some of the florid psychological glamour of an Almodóvar. This if possible trumps Juno. We meet probably the best ever portrayal of a teenager growing into her intelligence and feeling as she plunges into a proper nightmare of circumstance. Don’t worry, it’s a comic masterpiece too, even if there’s barely a belly-laugh in the whole 150 minutes. (The time flies by, contrary to reports that the film is overlong.)

Like a pinball, Lisa ricochets from one electric encounter with one person to another, sparking and shocking away from each. She is more at ease – and that’s not the right word – with adults than her own generation, and seeing her navigate the differences is just great. Wonderful to report – she is not shrieky or even hysterical. But Lord, the mouth on her! Anna Paquin’s Lisa Cohen is played out amongst a team of great actors, known and not, whose characters and performances are all interesting and surprising in their own right.

New York is at the heart of the movie, and so is Jewishness. If the former if portrayed affectionately, the latter is given what this goy thinks is brilliantly unflinching coverage. I am only able to opine on this very cautiously, but I assume that Kenneth Lonergan is interested in Lisa as a young girl and as a Jew, and he is drawn to the feisty guilt he finds at the heart of both. I would only say that her mother Joan (brilliantly done by J. Smith-Cameron) is not at all the Jewish mother as I have sometimes met her or ever seen her portrayed on screen.

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Publication date

16 November 2012


On movies