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.
Running Time: 99 minutes.