Earlier in the week, Kyle Smith of The New York Post reassessed the Extended Cut of Kenneth Lonergan's "Margaret." He found more to like than he originally had, but he didn't pull a total about face. David Edelstein at Vulture, on the other hand, did just that: a full critical 180. He's gone from "a fiasco with a stunning first half" to "as close to a masterpiece as any American movie in a decade."
"Through all the digressions and longeurs, 'Margaret' charts the torturous emotional journey of a modern American girl as no one has onscreen before, and it should be seen on a canvas befitting it — on a big screen in a theater. Please, Fox Searchlight, consider a limited national release."
As a supporter of the film since last fall, I'm happy to see a critic give the movie a second chance — and I'd urge anyone who has the opportunity to see it on the big screen to do so. But I'm not sure I agree with Edelstein's conclusion:
"You should buy the movie, a two-disc set containing the Blu-ray of the theatrical cut and the DVD of the extended version, and throw the Blu-ray away. I’m serious. It’s a shambles unworthy of its director and cast. It does, however, contain enough astonishing moments to make me regret having given it short shrift. My thanks to those who didn’t and who paved the way for this momentous event in American cinema."
In my own piece on the Extended Cut, I praised a lot of its now-undeleted scenes, but found I still preferred the original cut's polish and vitality; at least to my eye, the new version feels more like a work-in-progress than a fully formed masterpiece. That said, the Extended Cut and the Theatrical Cut aren't that different. This isn't a case of "Exorcist: The Beginning" and "Dominion: Prequel to The Exorcist," where two separate directors used the same source material and cast to make two wildly disparate cinematic experiences. "Margaret"'s Extended Cut offers exactly that: an extended vision of Lonergan's New York City. It's an amplication, not a drastic reimagining. Frankly, I'm a little mystified someone could consider one cut a "masterpiece" and the other a "shambles."
Maybe its worth pointing out that Edelstein's piece calls the version he saw this week the "Director's Cut" of "Margaret." It's technically not — Lonergan actually considers both versions his director's cuts. Athough there were many cooks in the kitchen during post-production, both "Margaret"s were ultimately created and approved by Lonergan. The theatrical "Margaret" is still very much his movie. It's just his shorter movie.
That doesn't necessarily mean it's inferior though. I'd say buy the "Margaret" Blu-ray — and keep the Blu-ray. Watch them both and decide for yourself.
Read more of "The Director's Cut of 'Margaret' Should Not Be Missed."