Sometimes thinking you know everything you want in life, and then getting it, isn’t quite as good as it sounds.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Maggie (Greta Gerwig), a self-sufficient New Yorker, decides she’s ready to raise a child as a single mother and prepares to inseminate herself. Her plan unexpectedly diverges when she meets and falls in love with John (Ethan Hawke), an anthropologic writer whose toxic marriage to adept university professor Georgette (Julianne Moore) is dwindling. Georgette is relinquished to pave the way for Maggie and John’s blossoming relationship, but three years and one child later, Maggie realises she no longer loves her new husband. She forms a new plan – reuniting John with his ex-wife.
Maggie’s Plan finds writer/director Rebecca Miller (The Ballad of Jack and Rose, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee) on a slightly different terrain to her usual straight-faced drama. Her latest effort is more comedic and quirky than what we’ve seen from her in the past, but the result is a film that hovers in an odd middle ground between comedy and drama. While it isn’t exactly laugh-out-loud funny, it generally amuses and calls for placid smiles. In reality, this mess of motherhood and marital mayhem would be a serious situation filled with plenty of heartbreak, and there is a sense of that at times, but these characters are droll and borderline absurd; you can’t get attached to them, you can only observe their strange momentum.
What Maggie’s Plan ends up as is a bizarre, almost surreal romance (or anti-romance) populated with self-absorbed, control-freak characters. We frequently jump forward in time, occasionally by a few years, which can’t help but feel dizzying and disorienting. The fact that our central trio change their minds and their feelings for one another almost as much is bewildering. It’s difficult to warm to such a narcissistic bunch, but thanks to a typically excellent cast working together in a lively harmony, they’re a delight to play voyeur to.
Indie darling Gerwig is so at home in these highbrow New Yorker roles that she carries the film without effort, though the fresh motive of single motherhood and its unexpected obstacles gives her Maggie a complexity that her Frances Ha and Mistress America characters were lacking.
It seems to be a trend in independent dramedies lately to harken back to the screwball romps of the 1930’s and 40’s, with shades of Woody Allen thrown in for good measure. Overall, Maggie’s Plan is undoubtedly a witty, engaging time, even if it’s all wrapped up a little too neatly – like Maggie’s plan itself.
Maggie’s Plan is available in Australian cinemas from July 7
Image courtesy of Sony Pictures