Film & Television

Movie Review: Make Plans to See ‘Maggie’s Plan’

Hollywood has been fascinated with the idea of “the other woman” since the town first put up its tinsel. The sex appeal of the femme fatale, the pathos of the jilted, the murderous rage of the scorned have been delicious fodder for decades of films. Entire movies have revolved around man’s predilection for infidelity — and woman’s for revenge. From the 1939 classic The Women, in which Norma Shearer outwits her rival Joan Crawford, to 1996’s The First Wives Club, in which a trio of spurned spouses (Dianne Keaton, Bette Midler and Goldie Hawn) actually incorporate for payback, to the more recent (arguably weaker but still entertaining) The Other Woman, in which a lying cheat finds himself in the crosshairs of his wife and serial mistresses (Leslie Mann, Cameron Diaz and Kate Upton).

Rarely, if ever, has the other woman plotted to return the man to the original. Until now. Because that is precisely the story behind the charming new movie Maggie’s Plan.

Maggie’s Plan is written and directed by Rebecca Miller (based on a story by Karen Rinaldi). An artist turned actress turned auteur, Miller is best-known for earlier films The Private Lives of Pippa Lee (2009, with Robin Wright Penn) and The Ballad of Jack and Rose (2005, with Catherine Keener and Miller’s real-life husband Daniel Day-Lewis). Miller has described her new movie as “A very modern story in what is our great American form: the screwball romantic comedy.”

Having seen (and enjoyed every minute of) the movie, I don’t know that I would call it a “screwball comedy,” but it certainly starts with a very modern premise.

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Maggie is a bookish young New Yorker — the kind of woman former English majors recognize as a kindred spirit. She works as a career counselor for design students at The New School in Greenwich Village, wears layers of plaid and wool, and lives in a cramped downtown apartment she’s subletting from a poet. She’s decided that she wants to have a baby, but isn’t particularly interested or suited for marriage. She moans to a friend (an ex- from college) that she can’t seem to stay in love once she finds herself in it. For her baby-daddy, she chooses another college classmate, a math major who now sells pickles. (“He’s a pickle entrepreneur!” Maggie insists.) Although he appears to be a tad stoned, he is surprisingly charming. He offers to pollinate “The old-fashioned way,” but expresses relief when Maggie says she’d prefer not to have him in the parental picture once the baby is born.

There have been several movies made in recent years about women giving up on romance and pursuing single motherhood. Invariably, they meet Mr. Right right after they’ve resorted to the turkey baster. This happens for Maggie as well. She bumps into John, a renowned ficto-crypto-anthropologist (‘love the obscurity of that!) who is being emotionally snuffed by his far more successful wife, academic superstar and ice queen Georgette. Maggie and John fall in love; he divorces Georgette; he and Maggie have an adorable little girl; and live happily ever after.

That is, until Maggie realizes that her earlier self-assessment was correct. She can’t stay in love. She’s no longer in love. She simply isn’t in love. And . . . she wants her money back.

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  • Susanna Gaertner July 13, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    Thank you, Alexandra, for a review that makes me want to go to the movies, even here on the sunny central coast of CA. This is exactly the kind of film I enjoy but have only learned about in the “right” way through your review.

  • Andrea July 5, 2016 at 8:18 am

    This is today’s afternoon activity! Thanks Alexandra!