Parker Posey was such a ubiquitous fixture in independent films throughout the latter half of the '90s that it's hard to believe The Misadventures Of Margaret—a 1998 French, British, and U.S. co-production just now being released on home video—is only her third starring vehicle. Unfortunately, like Posey's first movie, 1995's Party Girl, Margaret is a tortured bit of would-be whimsy that relies far too heavily on her neurotic-pixie charm to compensate for a meandering plot and a tone that's never quite as effervescent as it's clearly meant to be. Adapted from a novel by Cathleen Schine, who also wrote the book that served as the source material for The Love Letter, Margaret stars Posey as a ditsy, wildly popular author somewhat happily married to worldly British professor Jeremy Northam. Working on a steamy follow-up to her best-seller, Posey begins to suspect Northam of cheating on her with an adoring coed and absentmindedly contemplates a series of affairs: first with an earthy Frenchman, then with a Camille Paglia-like professor (Brooke Shields), and finally with a strapping dentist. Flitting back and forth between Posey's fantasies and frustrated reality, Margaret takes its cues from the stylishly retro, chic work of Saint Etienne—which provides much of its music—but never comes close to capturing the easy grace that keeps the band from being hopelessly twee and precious. First-time writer-director Brian Skeet attempts to recapture the fizzy, sophisticated tone of urbane light comedies from the '40s and '50s, but he confuses smug self-consciousness for charm and highbrow references and polysyllabic dialogue for sophistication. Another strangely inert vehicle for an actress who deserves better, Margaret has all the right influences but lacks the carefree magic of the work it so rapturously emulates.