Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Margaret Movie Poster Image
Chaotic coming-of-age drama with teen sex, drugs.
  • R
  • 2011
  • 149 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The movie's message is that the truth matters, even if it's difficult to cop to it. Not doing so can eat at you and change you in both small and significant ways.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Lisa makes a mistake and lies under duress, but she spends the rest of the time trying to make it right. She wants to take responsibility even though she's just a teenager who doesn't have all the answers figured out and has parents who seem uncertain about right and wrong as well.


The bus accident in the beginning of the movie (which propels the rest of the story) is graphic, bloody, and protracted. A woman's severed leg is visible; she dies a slow and sad death, unable to see or make sense of what has just happened to her. Later, characters scream and yell at each other, call each other names, and throw objects in anger.


A high school girl loses her virginity to a guy with a girlfriend; they're shown groping in the dark, and her breasts are sort of visible. She's also shown performing a sex act -- no nudity, but her movements hint at what she's doing -- on a teacher. A woman is shown pleasuring herself (again, no nudity, but it's pretty clear what she's doing); later, she stands bare-breasted in front of a mirror as her lover awaits. Teenagers make out.


Fairly frequent use of "a--hole," "damn," "bitch," "s--t," and "f--k," as well as "c--t," which comes up in an argument between a mother and her teen daughter.


Some signage and name-dropping for Duane Reade, Tropicana, Trek, UBS, New York Times, USA Today, and more.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens smoke weed and drink beer at parties and at home; a guy shows a girl how to snort drugs. Social drinking in restaurants.

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."

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byndearden June 1, 2014

Highly thought-provoking work of art

After watching this movie with a group of teenaged students (a mix of 14-17 year olds), we spent almost an hour discussing the larger ideas it inspired. I belie... Continue reading

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What's the story?

Lisa (Anna Paquin), a New York City private school student, comes undone after she witnesses a gruesome bus accident that has her cradling a dying woman (Allison Janney) in her arms. If she wasn't troubled before (by her parents' divorce, among other issues), she is now. She wants clarity, but she isn't sure about what or from whom. From the bus driver (Mark Ruffalo), perhaps, who's the only other person besides her who knows how the accident came to be, or her actress mother (), who seems preoccupied by her new play and a new beau (Jean Reno)? From the rebellious teen boy (Kieran Culkin) at her high school who has a girlfriend but wants her, the dead woman's best friend (Jeannie Berlin), or her earnest geometry teacher (Matt Damon)?

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?

Movie details

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