I have watched the theatrical cut of Kenneth Lonergan’s “Margaret” several times between its brief original release in September and this spring. If you know me, I’ve probably sung its praises to you many times. I love it, and at this point, I have the entire movie pretty much memorized.
Watching the soon-to-drop Extended Cut of “Margaret” this past weekend was extremely jarring, because it was not at all what I expected. Occasionally, it feels like a completely different film. Most of the time, it’s a less condensed and flustered movie, but there is more of what made “Margaret” special. From one member of #TeamMargaret to another, here’s what to expect from Lonergan’s extended cut. Spoilers ahead!
To my surprise, this new cut of Margaret doesn’t have very many “deleted scenes”; certainly no more than your average movie. However, they all provide new information about all the subplots in the film that didn’t feel totally explicated. Both of the major plot holes – Abigail’s mysterious phone records and Lisa’s abortion – are explained. On a characterization level, we understand a great deal more about the relationships between the many characters. “Margaret” has so many subplots that weren’t completely formed. But let me be clear: All of Lonergan’s truly great scenes made it into the theatrical cut. What is added simply makes “Margaret” more cohesive and clear.
Anyone who has seen the theatrical cut will notice an important change: The sound design. First of all, the music is very, very different. Nico Muhly’s majestic score is used in different places all over the film. Scenes that were originally accompanied are not, and vice versa. This isn’t the only way the sound design is different: Lonergan often cuts away from our major characters and their conversations to listen in on a snippet of dialogue at another table in the restaurant or a phone call on the sidewalk. This happened a few times in the theatrical cut, but in this cut, Lonergan makes it quite clear that this was part of his vision for the film.
The bulk of the changes in the extended cut are inside the scenes. If anything, this cut shows just how meticulous Lonergan is in the editing room. Very few scenes in the two cuts are completely identical. Remember how the theatrical cut of “Margaret” was mostly built with scenes that began and ended in media res? That doesn’t happen very much in this cut, and this is the major difference.
This all greatly affects the film on a tonal level. It doesn’t hit you with the same wham-boom-bang power. However, this cut of “Margaret” works better as a film, because it’s ambitious storytelling is allowed to unspool itself with the pacing of Lonergan’s leaked shooting script. I guarantee that you’ll still be bewildered by “Margaret.” Those who wanted more of it will still love it. Those who were frustrated by its messiness might have some of their concerns assuaged by the extended cut’s clarity, but if you weren’t on #TeamMargaret the first time around, don’t expect to join up now.