A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this meandering drama about what happens to a 17-year-old after she witnesses a horrible bus accident depicts a pretty stark, often depressing existence. Fathers are absentee, teenage boys aren't faithful, mothers are narcissists. It's pretty heavy material for tweens and teens who may be fans of star Anna Paquin and is more appropriate for older teens and adults. Look for references and scenes depicting smoking (the main character smokes like a chimney -- not just cigarettes. but marijuana too) and drinking among teens. Sex acts between teens and a teen girl and an adult are implied from movements, plus there's adult breast-baring. There's also some swearing, including "f--k" and "c--t."
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What's the story?
Is it any good?
What to say about MARGARET, except that it's both a mess and mesmerizing. Overlong and crowded with too many themes, characters, and plots to do most of them justice, it nevertheless rarely feels leaden. You watch hoping it will reach an ending that will make all of its loose ends -- some beautiful and powerful -- connected once more. But no. Director Kenneth Lonergan, whose You Can Count on Me was a lean, mean family drama machine, seems indecisive here, unsure about the kind of movie he's making. Is it a treatise on growing up a teenager in a post-9/11 New York City, or an examination of what guilt and tragedy can do long after the event that precipitates all these disturbing feelings is long gone?
Lucky for Margaret that it has Paquin as its lead. The way she talks and moves captures the roiling mess that are the teenage years. She's able to juggle three emotions -- defiance, ennui, fear -- on her face all at once. And the supportive cast is impressive, especially Jeannie Berlin as a woman beset and enraged by grief. But honestly, what's the point of having marquee names in your movie if you're not going to use them much? (Matthew Broderick as an inexplicable and, as it turns out, unimportant character is a major waste of talent.) Margaret has aspirations of greatness but falls short. That said, it's still sort of fascinating.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the accident that sets everything else in motion. How did watching it affect you? Would the scene have the same effect if it was less graphic?
Lisa is estranged from both her parents, but her relationship with her mother seems especially strained. Why? Is it a realistic depiction of teen relationships with parents?
How does the film handle the subject of a teen girl losing her virginity? Does it seem believable? What are the consequences for the sexual behavior?
What are the consequences of teen drinking and drug use?