In the film industry, there’s failure, and then there’s straight-to-DVD failure. The list of gems that have, for myriad reasons, failed to make it to the big screen can be counted on one hand, with Mike Judge’s instant classic Idiocracy standing out among the most recent bunch. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I have some good news: a new DVD release can be added to that minuscule list of gems.
Margaret, which had an extremely limited 2011 run in theaters, has had an utterly disastrous marketing campaign, coming far short of its first million in revenues (the ballpark budget was $14,000,000. It’s made back about $50,000). Despite its delays, multiple edits, and box office failure, the final cut of Margaret has emerged as a diamond in the rough. In fact, despite never seeing the light of day, it would not be stretch to deem Margaret a contemporary masterpiece.
Riding the critical acclaim of his 2001 directorial debut You Can Count on Me, writer/director/playwright Kenneth Lonergan wrote a 360 page script for Margaret, laying down the framework for what would become a Sisyphean post-production process. With a cast of well-known actors such as Anna Paquin, Matt Damon, Matthew Broderick, and his regular collaborator Mark Ruffalo, Lonergan had the tides of good fortune on his side. Package the movie, prominently feature the big names on some billboards, and the movie would surely be solvent. I mean, seriously, we’re talking about Matt Damon here.
Enter post-production. There’s a fallout between Lonergan and his producers over the length of the final cut; Lonergan wants a three-hour edit, but Fox Searchlight opts for a two-and-a-half-hour cut that included the assistance of Martin Scorsese.
Four years later, Margaret had a feeble run in a tragically limited release. Still, critics liked what they saw. In fact, they liked it so much, an online petition spearheaded by critics plead Lonergan to release his intended cut. Last week, the Lonergan cut was released on Blu-ray and DVD. That’s five years after its intended release date.