I was fortunate enough to see this film recently at the West End Cinema in DC. Having read some of the mixed reviews, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I found myself pleasantly taken with the movie. Yes, there are one or two digressions that could have been better integrated with the story (or, possibly, cut). Yes, the climactic scene could've stood some tweaks. And yes, between this and You Can Count on Me, I do prefer the latter. But this was still one of the best films I've seen in years! It is a mature work, and honest, and considered. The emotions and psychologies of the characters feel real and authentic. If you're looking for a light, generic popcorn movie, this film is not for you. But if you appreciate true to life drama with weightier themes that will challenge your preconceptions and stimulate your higher cognitive functions, Margaret is definitely worth watching.
An early scene, of the story's tragic inciting incident, was so brutal, so powerful, and so upsetting that I almost had to leave the theater. The main character's involvement in this scene means that she is forever changed, and it's to be expected that she will begin to "act out" as she struggles to recalibrate her life in tragedy's wake. You might not like, or agree with, everything she does, but she is fascinating to watch. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone sums it up best: "Margaret, for all its flaws, is a film of rare beauty and shocking gravity."
As a product note, the disc release includes both the theatrical version (on Blu-ray) and an extended cut (on DVD). From what I've read, it sounded like the director was pressured to cut the film down to less than 2 and a half hours for the theatrical release, so it will be particularly interesting to watch the extended version. Perhaps some of the film's loose threads will prove to be more interwoven after all.