It’s 2021, and since we’re still all stuck indoors, what better to do than bask in all three-plus hours of Kenneth Lonergan’s extended cut of “Margaret,” which many contend is a forgotten masterpiece. Backed by a trouble post-production history — Martin Scorsese himself stepped in to provide a cut at the final hour — the definite version of Lonergan’s cinematic bildungsroman was previously only available on DVD. The extended cut is now available to stream on HBO Max as a bonus feature accompanying the two-and-a-half-hour theatrical version.
“Margaret” is largely about coming to terms with the fact that you are only the center of your own universe, and not anyone else’s, and it stars Anna Paquin in a career-best performance as stubborn teenager Lisa. She’s a high-school student who flirts with her math teacher (Matt Damon), defies her stage-actress, single mother Joan (J. Smith-Cameron), and eventually causes a fatal bus crash involving Mark Ruffalo as the driver and Allison Janney as the pedestrian in the crosshairs. The incident sends Lisa on an occasionally destructive existential journey as much about the topography of post-9/11 New York City (captured in weathered glory by Ryszard Lenczewski) as it is about that of the inner life.
The cast also includes Jeannie Berlin as Allison Janney’s character’s surviving best friend, Jean Reno as the unctuous wooer who drops into Joan’s life, Matthew Broderick as Lisa’s English teacher, John Gallagher Jr. as the poor sap chasing Lisa’s thorny heart, plus Kieran Culkin and even director Lonergan himself as Lisa’s father. While “Margaret” would remain a sore spot initially for Lonergan, it was re-launched in theaters in early 2012 after a disastrous limited 2011 run thanks to a grassroots critical groundswell. And a few years later, Lonergan would win the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for his film “Manchester by the Sea.”
Lonergan is loath to call this version of “Margaret” a “director’s cut” per se, as he explained to IndieWire back in 2012 when “Margaret” received its DVD release.
“To me, ‘director’s cut’ means that what was released before was somebody else’s cut. That, to me, always implies that what was released wasn’t what the director wanted,” Lonergan said at the time. “That’s just not what happened. The cut that was released was the cut I delivered. They’re both the director’s cut; they’re just different cuts. One of them was just free from the constraints of worrying about the time.”
Both the theatrical version and the extended cut of “Margaret” are now available to stream on HBO Max.