Maggie's Plan Review
Some actors have a niche, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If a formula works and isn’t broken, why try to fix it? Greta Gerwig is such an actress. Through films such as Frances Ha, Damsels in Distress, Lola Versus, and Mistress America, she has hit her stride playing young women attempting to manoeuvre in this crazy world, and does so exuding a kind of quirky warmth that can be very charming. Now she brings her skills to Rebecca Miller’s more modern spin on the screwball comedy, Maggie’s Plan.
Maggie (Greta Gerwig) is a young woman ready to take a big step in life. She has decided that she’s ready to be a mother and plans to do so with a biological donation from an old college friend Guy (Travis Fimmel). Things go a little differently than planned when she encounters John (Ethan Hawke), a lecturer who is floundering under the pressure of his intense wife Georgette (Julianne Moore), and the two fall for each other. Years later Maggie is married to John with a daughter of her own and feels like she’s falling out of love with her husband. So it’s time for a new plan: to get John and Georgette back together.
There is a lot to like about this film. It has a light energy to it that, along with the great cast, makes it easy viewing. It is funny in a soft way and will leave you smiling rather than laughing out loud, but sometimes that’s exactly what you want. Miller definitely has a knack for this kind of personal drama, keeping you curious over what can go wrong next, and there are some lovely Metropolitan shots of New York City.
Of all the skilled cast the one who really steals the show is Julianne Moore as Georgette. She’s this combination of outlandish, emotional, intelligent, harsh, yet strangely sweet all in one package and Moore plays it just right. It’s easy to see how someone could fall both in and out of love with such a person. A special nod should also be given to Travis Fimmel in his small role as Guy, the former college acquaintance now pickle magnate who is Maggie’s potential sperm donor, whose awkwardness has an endearingly real quality to it. I could have done with a bit more depth to Ethan Hawkes’ John as he comes across as a fairly one-note self-absorbed intellectual type. That isn’t to say that Hawke doesn’t play him well, just that as a character he’s very easy to write off.
Despite all the good things about the film, overall I found something to be lacking from Maggie’s Plan. It doesn’t have that relatable frank honesty that we’ve seen in recent indie comedies like Lake Bell’s In a World or Gillian Robespierre’s Obvious Child which both really worked for me. There’s the quirky and odd of everyday life, and then there’s someone actively trying to be quirky and odd and this is closer to the latter. New York doesn’t feel as fake and shiny as it might in a big mainstream romcom, but there’s still something very forced about it and the way in this film it exists in some strange bubble where it’s always winter (and much like Narnia never Christmas). It also feels like two very separate plots, that of Maggie planning to have a child from artificial insemination and Maggie attempting to get her husband and his ex wife back together, which could both work as plots in their own right. The child plot in particular I feel could have been a base for some great material, particularly as the scenes with Maggie and her young daughter are very heartwarming. Together though the two plots just feel a bit jumbled and rushed.
However it’s entirely possible that I’m nitpicking and am just jealous of Greta Gerwig’s cardigan collection, but the cast do all work great in this and I'm sure others will find a lot to enjoy in Maggie’s Plan and its light, wry humour.