“Maggie’s Plan” (2016)
Maggie (Greta Gerwig) is a single woman living in New York City. She works at a local university, connecting art students with potential employers. When we first see Maggie, she is meeting her best friend Tony (Bill Hader). As they walk around the park with Tony’s adorable son in tow, Maggie is complaining that she has never been in a long-term relationship. She feels that love is not in her future, and therefore, she should just get artificially inseminated using the sperm of a mutual friend of their’s named Guy (Travis Fimmel). Tony’s only objection to this idea is that Guy is a “close talker.”
Maggie meets with Guy, an artisanal pickle maker running his own business to discuss the possibility of the insemination. Guy is in and is excited that Maggie doesn’t want any participation from him when the child is born. Later that afternoon, Maggie is at the bursar’s office when she meets a part-time professor, John (Ethan Hawke) who convinces Maggie to go for a walk. Their talk goes so well, and John is so impressed with Maggie, that he gives her the first chapter of the novel he is working on.
Maggie finds out from Tony’s wife, Felicia (Maya Rudolph) that John is considered the heartthrob of the university, and that he is in an unhappy marriage to a Columbia University professor (Julianne Moore), a woman that has an incredibly successful career. It turns out that John doesn’t have the greatest of a reputation on campus, though some of that maybe due to his cold and impersonal wife. Maggie decides to continue to see John, and he tells her that he is miserable in his home life because his wife is only interested in her career, which eclipses his, and won’t let him blossom. Finally, John leaves his wife and shows up at Maggie’s door ready to advance their relationship. Maggie should have remembered the old adage “Careful what you wish for.”
Writer/director Rebecca Miller, like her past work including The Private Lives of Pippa Lee and Personal Velocity, brings us a smart, whimsical film that centers on a strong, yet slightly neurotic woman who just might be better off without the men she chooses to get involved with. The dialogue is sharp and natural, making the characters seem real. While Maggie’s Plan is rarely laugh out loud funny, it is a sly, humorous look at a modern-day woman and the choices she makes in her life. That’s the subject of the movie, we don’t always make the right decisions, especially when we go against our better judgment. It’s also about how putting other people’s wants and desires over your’s aren’t invariably for the best; sometimes you need to put you first. Miller does an excellent job of knowing when to slow down the storyline so that we can get to know the characters better and when to speed up the pace for comic effect.
There are a number of memorable scenes in this film that show off Rebecca Miller’s comedic touch. The first time we meet John’s wife, played by the brilliant Julianne Moore is a perfect example of Miller’s ability to mine comedic gold. John is so enameled with Maggie that he realizes he is incredibly late for an appointment and takes off in a run across the park. He enters a theatre to where a woman is being interviewed by a moderator on stage. We quickly realize as John takes the open seat on the stage and grabs a mike, that the event is a kind of point/counterpoint interview with his wife. As he debates the Occupy Wall Street movement with his wife, we realize that they both relish a fight, and both think they are more intelligent the other.
You couldn’t ask for a better cast than this movie has. Bill Hader is exceptional as the opinionated friend of Maggie’s that has only her best interests at heart. He plays off of Greta Gerwig extremely well, their back-and-forth banter makes some of the most amusing scenes of the film. Maya Rudolph is equally good as Maggie’s brash friend.
Rudolph has that ability to deliver a slight line and make it memorable just using her facial expressions. Ethan Hawke is perfect as John, a man that thinks his looks and talent mean the world should give him everything that he wants. Julianne Moore is priceless as John’s wife, Georgette, who has a personality full of hostility that dominates everything in the room. Georgette is Danish and Moore gives her an accent that is just funny listening to it. Moore gives us a character that why not likable; you can feel sympathy for. I am sure that Rebecca Miller wrote this film with Greta Gerwig in mind because I would have a hard time with anyone else in the role. Gerwig has great comedic timing that the movie uses to the utmost. She gives us a memorable performance that you don’t know how she does it, but she commands you to concentrate on her character even when you have scene stealers like Rudolph and Moore up on the screen with her. Gerwig gives a performance that while sweet doesn’t go overboard, making us root for Maggie even more.
“Maggie’s Plan” is a funny and surprisingly, quite moving film that capitalizes on great writing and incredible cast to give us as a pleasurable and gratifying film centered around a woman. We need more of these type of films, and I hope Rebecca Miller keeps giving them to us. My Rating: Full Price
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
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