By Adam Ray Palmer
Today’s review is of a film that originally premiered at the 66th Berlinale back in February.
As this screwball comedy has received great acclaim, I went along to the Phoenix Leicester to see Maggie’s Plan as it’s the only cinema in the city showing it for the next seven days.
Maggie’s Plan stars Greta Gerwig as Maggie, Ethan Hawk as John, Julianne Moore as John’s ex-wife Georgette with Bill Hader and Maya Rudolph in supporting roles as Maggie’s friends Tony and Felicia.
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. Greta Gerwig takes the lead as the titular Maggie, a life-plan-obsessed sophisticated ‘Bridget Jones’ character whose desire to have a baby hastily puts her in a difficult position as she is yet to find the right guy. She decides to go down the artificial insemination route and looks to an old college friend, Guy, to be the donor. The situation gets more complicated when Maggie falls for the married man she has been getting cosy with at her workplace.
The narrative seems so intriguing and different to previous productions in this genre. This movie is a grown-up romantic comedy but at times is let down by a disappointingly meek plot. The characters, especially the starring three, are so complex and interesting but the narrative is not intelligent enough to keep up.
Gerwig and Hawke are on the money in their roles, even though they are still trumped by Julianne Moore. These three get the measure of their characters and their relationships from the off which makes for such a good first act. What follows in the second act is not so forgiving to the plot. Maggie is demoted to a ‘third wheel’ role in her own story and the movie focuses on John and Georgette. This neutralises her character so when the plot tries to return to her near the end to sew everything up, the film falls a bit flat.
The first act certainly saves the film. After 45 minutes in, you’re hooked to see where the film is going but I feel Rebecca Miller loses the balance of character to plot. This film is character-driven and it tries to make a switch half way through, and that doesn’t work for me. The second act clings on through a stellar performance from Moore who steals every scene she is in. By doing this, the film is taken away from the titular character and Maggie becomes surplus to requirements at the climax.
If Miller delved a little deeper into the characters’ messed-up psyches – we would have a much more profound and impressive indie film. As we are left on the surface to find our own way around the characters, we have little guidance on the strange relationships between them all. Every character on screen seems very incestuous but it’s never really explored – that is one side-plot that would have been great.
There are moments of joy in Maggie’s Plan to be fair with Julianne and Greta going head-to-head a few times, plus Bill Hader’s short but great screen time. I’m really enjoying Hader’s career at the moment. There is also a belly-laugh scene when Maggie uses an insemination home kit in her bath but to only be disturbed with a sudden knock at the door which prompts her to crab walk across her flat to keep her old college friend’s sample inside of her.
On the whole, it’s an entertaining yet frustrating film. Maggie’s Plan would have worked better if the characters were allowed to flourish in a deeper narrative. I just feel the plot holds back the sophisticated bunch and we don’t get the best out of them. I must say the cast certainly deserve praise. I have found a new ‘cinema-crush’ on Gerwig though; I’m intrigued to see what she does next.
Cineroom’s Rating: 3 Stars
Maggie’s Plan is currently showing at the Phoenix Leicester until Thursday 21st July – Certificate 15