Four years ago (yes, it finished filming in November 2005), Margaret (the second feature by Kenneth Lonergan, maybe) finished filming and went to the editing room. Since then, it hasn’t left. Yearly there are new updates on the film — none of them too insightful or hopeful, but fans of You Can Count On Me or the cast or long, arthouse films stay optimistic.
There are many variables that – if you’re reading this – I’m sure you’ve heard of, but let me sum them up for the ignorant.
First, Fox Searchlight gives Kenneth Lonergan complete artistic control over this film but demand he keep it under 150 minutes in length. His script is sitting pretty at roughly 170 pages long – which I will read soon now that I’m in possession of it and will review it for people interested – which generally means the film will be about 170 minutes long. Whose fault is it for not being clairvoyant on this matter? Both parties seem like complete idiots, but particularly Lonergan who should have made a different deal if he knew his vision would be compromised.
Second, Fox Searchlight could, hypothetically, give Lonergan a new contract to sign and just release this film to scrounge whatever change can come from this debacle. Does it honestly matter if a film is 150 or 180 minutes? The same crowds will flock to it. Here it’s apparent that the corporate heads know they’ve got power and are waiting for Lonergan to crack under it. It’s a game of “My dick is bigger than your dick” and it’s severely jeopardizing this entire project.
Third, many people have tried to compromise Lonergan’s artistic vision. Not ‘bad’ people, but people like Thelma Schoolmaker and the late Sydney Pollack tried to help cut the film with him. Even some additional film editors were hired by Searchlight to bring this issue to a close, but Lonergan wouldn’t have any of it.
Now that he’s got his latest play up and running — The Starry Messenger which opened in November — and mulling around art with New York Times columnist Patrick Healy, it appears he is slowly resigning to the fact that it’s either 150 minutes or nothing. He speaks about the transcendence of art and the drain that comes with legalities such as these. Perhaps now that he’s feeling old senses of being appreciated for creating art for others to enjoy, he will give in and let it all be. Directors Cut on DVD, perhaps.
In related news, I found a still from the film that couldn’t be more symbolic for this situation if Lonergan tried:
Perhaps if Lonergan saw foreshadowing in his own photography, maybe all of this could have been avoided. Of course, the bus is Fox Searchlight, the driver is Kenneth Lonergan, Allison Janney (the dead woman) is the film and Anna Paquin (the distraught woman) personifies each individual wanting to see this film with the expression of “what the fuck?”.
Expect a review of the script up in a day or two. I hate reading scripts, but this one just has to be understood.