0590 | Maggie’s Plan

This is another New York-set romantic indie dramedy (‘romindiramedy’?) that kinda-sorta looks as if it’s leaning toward Brooklyn hipsterdom, and does to a certain degree, though in actual fact the main characters are academics and the New York University campus in Manhattan is one of the principal backdrops. Greta Gerwig – no stranger to this type of film, and as likeable here as ever – plays the pragmatic Maggie, a woman who wants a child and has decided to opt for artificial insemination, enlisting the help of a former college friend who now sells pickles (‘he’s a pickle salesman’ says Maggie’s friend Tony, played by Bill Hader, to which Maggie quickly replies ‘no, he’s a pickle entrepreneur‘). Yet at the same point in time that she impregnates herself, Maggie also falls in love with Ethan Hawke’s John, the ‘bad boy of ficto-critical anthropology’ and a man who is seeking a way out of his stale marriage to well-respected Columbia University professor Georgette (Julianne Moore). John hankers after more me-time, in which he intends to finish writing a novel, and while the early stages of the film are flush with his and Maggie’s burgeoning romance, the action eventually leaps forward three years to find the pair married and raising a three-year-old daughter, but with Maggie increasingly unhappy at the state of their relationship: the things that she once found endearing about John now irritate her, and she feels taken for granted; she is rushed off her feet looking after her own daughter as well as John and Georgette’s two children, with her career suffering as a result, while John’s novel remains unfinished.

Rebecca Miller’s film is much smarter and wittier than your average romantic comedy, but rather unusually for the genre there’s also a commendable attempt here to ensure that the characters’ reactions to various incidents and revelations ring true. These aren’t your typical rom-com characters, with Moore’s professor in particular becoming ever more sympathetic after initially being painted as cold, intimidating and harsh (though she has good reason to act that way, too). It’s a shame, then, that because the main focus is resolutely kept on the love triangle that develops between Maggie, Georgette and John, one or two of the supporting characters feel a bit by-the-numbers, particularly Tony and his partner Felicia (Maya Rudolph), who only ever serve as sounding boards. However, in truth I can’t really find much to complain about, except to say that I’m experiencing a degree of fatigue when it comes to this kind of film. Miller – who is the daughter of photographer Inge Morath and playwright Arthur Miller – gets decent performances out of several actors I like very much, and her screenplay – developed from a story by Karen Rinaldi – is drily funny, so Maggie’s Plan is well worth a look.

Directed by: Rebecca Miller.
Written by: Rebecca Miller.
Starring: Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke, Julianne Moore, Bill Hader, Maya Rudolph, Travis Fimmel.
Cinematography: Sam Levy.
Editing: Sabine Hoffmann.
Music:
Michael Rohatyn.
Certificate:
15.
Running Time:
99 minutes.
Year:
2016.

Comments 12

    • Stu July 20, 2016

      They’re pretty good together, I have to say. There are shades of the Before series at times because of Hawke’s presence, but also because there’s an easy converational/realistic style to his scenes with Gerwig. Very different kind of film overall, but I think the comparison’s worth making because the director here isn’t afraid of long, dialogue-heavy takes, like Linklater.

  1. Tom July 19, 2016

    Yeah, ditto Keith’s comment. Never seen Ethan Hawke get his hipster on before so that’ll be interesting. I’m sure I’ll end up disgusted by this though because Greta Gerwig just seems to love playing cutesy little hopeless romantic hipsters. Precisely the kind of person I actively avoid (or try to hit with my car) every single day of my life.

    • Stu July 20, 2016

      Oh she’s definitely not hopeless (or hopelessly romantic!) here…pretty much throughout she’s independent and other characters remark on her capability. The hipster thing is just…well, they live in a cool apartment in Brooklyn and there is a certain kookiness to her character in the sense that she dresses in a kind of old-fashioned style. I like Gerwig in this, and it’s a believable partnership with Hawke.

        • Stu July 21, 2016

          Yeah – quite liked it, but not as much as many people seemed to. Of the two Noah Baumbach films last year I think I’m in the minority in preferring the other one (While We’re Young), even though that had a very weird ending.

        • Tom July 21, 2016

          Yeah that was a weird ending. I was wanting to know what M.A. was like as I have heard it was one pretentious little flick but I also did see (and enjoy) Frances Ha, which was extremely hipster. So I’ll give both these things a chance (the other being Maggie’s Plan)

  2. Todd B August 28, 2016

    I too am growing fatigued of ‘hipster’ films – and especially those directed by Noah Baumbach – and ‘woe is me’ stories in general, but you make this one sound a bit interesting, so I may have to visit the library and see if it’s available. Not sure if I’ve ever seen a Greta Gerwig film, either.

    And thank heavens this wasn’t filmed in Romania, and co-starred Rebecca Romijn, or we’d have…wait for it…a romanianrominjromindiramedy.

    • Stu August 29, 2016

      Haha! Romanianromijnromindriramedies are set to be all the rage for 2017, I’ve heard. Greta Gerwig is someone I quite enjoy – she has been in a few that I’ve liked during the past couple of years, but as most people point out her best role to date is probably in Frances Ha. Which is….uh oh….a Baumbach movie.

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