This week the Bleader presents a series of commentaries on Kenneth Lonergan’s drama Margaret (2011), which just concluded a run at Gene Siskel Film Center.
Margaret is about a bright, articulate, but exceedingly self-absorbed New York teenager who’s going through the wringer—putting herself through it, really. It’s also about two and a half hours long, an indication of the outsize ambition of writer-director Kenneth Lonergan, who’s produced a nuanced meditation on trauma and grief. Near the beginning, the protagonist, Lisa (Anna Paquin), tries from the sidewalk to catch the eye of a bus driver, causing him to plow through a red light and over a pedestrian, who dies in Lisa’s arms. She gives a statement to the police that exonerates him—the light was green, she tells them. She lied because she’d been urged by her mother to think of the driver’s family, but she grows less and less satisfied with this resolution, to the point of returning to the police to revise her statement. That accomplishes nothing, of course—the case has been closed, and a traffic accident is a nonpriority. She seeks out the victim’s friend, Emily, and they endeavor to sue the transit agency for negligence. They don’t want the money, which would go to a member of the victim’s family, anyway; they just want the driver to lose his job. They want, in some old-fashioned way, justice.