323 Great Directors: Kenneth Lonergan

“Teenagers all think their life is a movie. If you break up with someone or you have a fight, you walk around with movie scores playing in your head. You sort of see yourself suffering as you’re suffering. There’s a lot of melodrama attached to the real events of your life.”

Why This Director?: I wanted to avoid really small filmographies from more modern directors, but I couldn’t resist finally catching up.

My Last Experience Was…: N/A.

What Did I Watch: You Can Count on Me and Margaret.

Where Does He Fit: You Can Count On Me’s title permeates the whole script (which is just astounding and the fact that it lost to Almost Famous hurts), with Laura Linney’s bank worker going about her life in the hometown unceasingly, struggling to be a good single mother to her eight year old son and in the process nearly stifling him to death. Then along comes her brother, Terry, who took a different tack in reacting to their parents’ death by travelling all over, including to my least favorite place on Earth in Alaska.

Is there anything more rare than a movie that treats sibling bonds with the same seriousness as husband-wife or parent-child relationships? There is so much drama to be mined there, and Lonergan grabs onto the slightly boilerplate material of a wild and free brother who doesn’t have much friendship or stability, and the sister who is going to be stuck spending her whole life in the same town yet has comfort from it. There is definitely a way to read the ending as depressing, but I really do think it will be optimistic in the end. Partly because of the music and that final hug, and partly because of how Margaret wraps up. (Also, I can understand why Linney didn’t win the Oscar, but Ruffalo not even scraping a nomination only to get plenty more for weaker work…criminal.)


Speaking of which, he is back for Margaret, and he plays a bus driver in a cowboy hat! Who Anna Paquin’s Lisa Cohen wants to know where it is from, resulting in a smushed shopping trolley and pedestrian, with one of the most horrifying scenes you could imagine despite how lacking in graphicness it is, all things considered. She lies to save the bus driver’s ass (Lonergan sure has a crush on Ruffalo when he fucks up every single time). Everything people say becomes fucking dense with meanings about the way that we are incapable of communicating properly, with a teenage sobfest becoming cringey and Lisa’s various attempts at making some meaning out of the shit that has been happening to her ranges from hilarious to grim. Only the opera can truly communicate teenage messiness properly, even though she correctly points out just why it is unbearable, yet somehow cathartic in its shrieking, to listen to. Let your mind wander during the overcrowded audio scenes to the stories of these New Yorkers, and make sure to watch the three hour cut.


Most Valuable Asset: He gets people.
Buzzword: Casual. (This whole section was a dumb idea.)
Most Excited For: The upcoming Manchester By the Sea

Coming Up Next: Celine Sciamma’s studies of women.


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