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The Unloved, Part 48: Margaret

Today is the fourth anniversary of "The Unloved," so I wanted to do something huge, something different, something unwieldy, because those are my favourite kinds of film. The ones that seem bigger than the medium will allow them to be, that creep into your unconscious and stay there to pop out and remind you of their power when you least expect them.

I saw "Margaret" like many people in it’s slightly butchered theatrical cut in 2011 and even with its soul cut out I could tell this movie was different. It was loud and relentless and hard to watch at times. Cruel, even. But the more I watched the more I realized it was trying to show all of life in a city that’s come to represent one half of American life, the fast thinking liberals with more conscience than they know with what to do. 

"Margaret" hasn’t left me for longer than a few days since then. I found myself furious at its negative press. I got so wound up at Keith Phipps’ C grade that I may have gotten an AV Club account to yell at him about it. Keith is a national treasure and a friend and it seems ridiculous that I was so offended by anyone’s review of anything but that’s how passionately I felt about this movie. I felt like people were criticizing the act of self actualization, of growing up. That whomever I was about to become was somehow under attack because older folks weren’t taking this movie about growth seriously. Needless to say, I was a fun 21-year-old.

But every part of this difficult film has stayed with me. From Jeannie Berlin’s Star showcase to Anna Paquin’s believably stunted young woman to Allison Janey’s Movie infecting one scene performance. Her howls of confusion stick to the rest of the movie like blood stains. She is remarkable in this movie and the fact that she may finally get an academy award fills me with great delight. I used to watch her every week on "The West Wing." She’s one of the greats.

But frankly there isn’t a bad moment of performance in this movie, which utilizes poetry, literature, opera and theatre to help us understand the experience of being alive. This movie is a terrifying gift, one of the great films of my lifetime. So I tried to do something a little more formally adventurous this time out, something that fits its understanding of our collective footprint. This film understands that we’re all living our lives elbow to elbow, that everyone’s pain matters. I’ll never forget realizing how generous this movie is despite it centering on one of the most self centered women in film history. But Lonergan believes that even the most self absorbed of us can find other people and let them in, can pump the brakes on our self destruction, can remember to love before it’s too late. Margaret is one tough watch but it’s also one of the most rewarding. 

I wanted to use this film’s sprawling scope as a way to say thank you to everyone who has watched this series, who has recommended it to a friend, who has given one of these movies a chance based on my recommendation. I’ll never forget the elation I felt when Matt called me at work that day in 2013 and said to me he liked my idea for an essay on "Alien³" and "would I be making this into a series?" Working for this site as long as I’ve been allowed to is a dream come true. Meeting Chaz for the first time, covering New York Film Festival for this site, having Matt and Brian Tallerico say nice things about my writing. All of these things make me glad to be alive, glad that Cinema was my first love. Standing alongside such a fantastic array of writers helping to ensure Roger Ebert’s legacy is an honor beyond description.

The Unloved - Margaret from Scout Tafoya on Vimeo.

To watch more of Scout Tafoya's video essays from his series The Unloved, click here.

Scout Tafoya

Scout Tafoya is a critic and filmmaker who writes for and edits the arts blog Apocalypse Now and directs both feature length and short films.

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