Film & Television

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

1024x1024Photo: Sony Pictures Classics

The rest of the movie is the execution of Maggie’s plan: to put the family she broke up back together again, and get on with her own life (with her daughter).

Miller has put together a marvelous cast. I’ll start with Ethan Hawke as John because in some ways his character is the least dimensional. Hawke has had a rich career onscreen and onstage, writing and directing as well as acting. But he often seems to play the same role, as in the acclaimed Boyhood  and all of the Before . . . films. He’s mastered the art of the self-absorbed, somewhat-scruffy, almost-Byronic, romantic-hero anti-hero. In Maggie’s Plan, I felt like I’d met John before and while Hawke’s work is solid in the movie, like Maggie, I got a little tired of the whole “finishing his unfinished novel” business.

So with Hawke out of the way, I can focus on the movie’s two leading ladies. Julianne Moore is delectable as Georgette. In heels, tight jeans and monochromatic artisanal fur vests, with her flaming hair pulled tight into a stressed out little bun on top of her head, Moore speaks with a piched and lispy Danish accent. At first, I wondered if she could keep it up without becoming cartoonish. But, her character quickly becomes richer than initially suspected and the perfect contrast to — and eventual accomplice of — Greta Gerwig’s Maggie.

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Gerwig, once again, proves that she is an indelible screen presence. Not a typical Hollywood beauty (although no slouch either), she feels more like a real person with a luminous soul that shines through for the camera. Early on, she dances by herself (while hapless pickle guy Guy is performing his seminal duties in a sterile cup in the bathroom). It’s a moment evocative of one of her first star turns in 2012’s Frances Ha. Although Maggie doesn’t always have the best judgment, you will root for her from the opening credits to the closing. I can’t express how satisfied I am that Maggie’s Plan probably lacked the budget for a bigger name. The part and the actress are ideally suited for each other. Gerwig deserves greater success. Then again, I’d hate to see her walk away from intimate gems like this.

The supporting cast includes comic stalwarts Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader, Wallace Shawn, and Travis Fimmel. Even the children (Maggie’s one and Georgette’s two) are compelling.

More nuanced and more interesting than most commercial screwball romantic comedies, Maggie’s Plan does seem to follow a number of other traditions. The story feels practically Shakespearean; the characters (and loving glimpses of New York City) feel like vintage Woody Allen. Although quirkier and less polished, the screenplay has a bit of Nora Ephron in it as well. None of these observations are meant as criticism. It’s more that Miller, in delivering the delightful Maggie’s Plan, is in excellent company.

In the end, Maggie’s Plan takes a familiar set up and turns it on its ear. If Mr. Right turns out to be Mr. Wrong, there are worse things than being a woman scorned.

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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.

    Reply
  • Andrea July 5, 2016 at 8:18 am

    This is today’s afternoon activity! Thanks Alexandra!

    Reply