Maggie’s Plan, 2016.
Directed by Rebecca Miller
Starring Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke, Bill Hader, Maya Rudolph, Travis Fimmel, Wallace Shawn and Julianne Mooore.
Maggie’s plan to have a baby on her own is derailed when she falls in love with John, a married man, destroying his volatile marriage to the brilliant Georgette.
If there’s one thing in Hollywood over the past few years that’s a certainty is the tremendous ability for comedy that Greta Gerwig has in abundance. In her last few films, she has been catapulted to the top of the tree with her performances in such brilliant comedies as 2013’s Frances Ha, last year’s Mistress America and her other upcoming role in Todd Solondz’s Weiner-Dog. But for her new film, Maggie’s Plan, she is changing tack slightly with the help of acclaimed filmmaker Rebecca Miller. Different Gerwig, sure, but still classic and magnificent Gerwig.
The titular Maggie with a plan (Gerwig) is desperate to be a mother. Scorned by one too many men in her short life, she seeks out different methods to try and get her pregnant, settling on a sperm donor and artificial insemination courtesy of local pickle merchant Guy (Fimmel). But through her work as a lecturer at a local new school, she soon strikes up a friendship with colleague John Harding (Hawke), a successful writerwho yearns to publish a novel despite his hugely successful and demanding wife Georgette (Moore) stifling his desires due to her own success. After reading some of John’s book however, Maggie soon falls for both his prose and his affections and the two soon embark on an affair and subsequent marriage and kids. But just as they get together a year or so later, the seams start to unravel, and Maggie begins to question whether her plans are as smart and foolproof as she once thought.
A classic screwball comedy in every sense of the word, is a beautifully choreographed concoction of wit and delicious repartee between all of the cast that flows seamlessly from one set-piece to another without ever losing its edge or endlessly comedic energy. Director Miller, the filmmaker behind such films as The Ballad of Jack and Rose (which starred hubby Daniel Day Lewis) and The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, excels herself here with her writing and direction. Taking influence from Woody Allen and Noah Baumbach, her writing is exemplary throughout while there is certainly an air of Wes Anderson about her direction with lots of typically-Anderson tracking shots which adds a further level of slickness to proceedings. There are a few bums notes throughout but most are so small that it doesn’t derail the energy of the film.
Somewhat cast against type as the somewhat unlikeable lead, Gerwig seems to embrace the change of pace and delivers another outstanding performance that can sit proudly alongside her recent run of superlative form. You strangely feel for Maggie throughout the film despite the fact that every action and reaction she makes to her situation is poorly thought through, derailing everything in her path with an alarming success rate but Gerwig’s charm and affluence is still hard to ignore.
Then we have the equal magnificence of Julianne Moore, who rarely puts a foot wrong in anything she does shines as Georgette, the arrogant and stern former wife of John. The thick Scandinavian accent she has is slightly jarring at first, but it soon nestles in without much fuss and enjoys some hilarious sequences with Gerwig that are an absolute joy. Hawke too excels as the man in the middle of the two women, and with some brilliant support from Bill Hader and Maya Rudolph, the cast are exemplary throughout.
It’s hard to find a bum note in Maggie’s Plan through its duration such is the delightfulness of the film. Miller’s film is by parts sharp, acerbic, hilarious and touching, easily the director’s best work thus far, and coupled with a superlative cast led by the marvellous Greta Gerwig, Maggie’s Plan is one of the comedy gems of the year.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Scott J. Davis is a Senior Staff Writer and Roving Reporter for Flickering Myth – Follow him on Twitter