“You’ve had your thinking license revoked.”
If you’ve seen a Greta Gerwig film before, you know who she plays. Sweet, sensitive and often, scatterbrained. Well, in Maggie’s Plan, add ‘short-sighted’ to the list.
Rebecca Miller’s film has a decidedly misleading title. The story revolves around a woman flung out of space, but like Rooney Mara’s Therese in Carol, so utterly aware of being so. Maggie has grand plans before that quoted in the title. In the opening walking conversation between Gerwig and the grouched Bill Hader, she professes one of the assumed many she has each week. This week’s flavour is the desire to have a baby, without the man. Hader shoots holes in the paper-thin thought, but Maggie marches on regardless. Her plans change as she meets John, played by an excitable Ethan Hawke.
John is dissatisfied, feeling wronged by his profession, by his wife and by the forces of nature. Maggie’s spark lights his face, and she falls for the reflection. Maggie is remarkably naive, even more so than Gerwig’s previous incarnations of this character, and it is only Gerwig who could pull this off. She is the facilitatory lead, allowing the swell of lively characters to flourish around her, as she epitomises the twenty-something New Yorker who is lost but feels found. She’s certainly had her practice in this role, and her comfort shows.
When Maggie meets John, he and his partner, Georgette, are on rough ground, separated by a canyon of insecurity, self-interest and jealousy. John’s dissatisfaction overwhelms him, as the neglect of his wife contrasts the youthful interest of his new acquaintance. Hawke’s frantic, ruffled, eloquence is the perfect blend of experience and bullshit, sweeping Maggie into it’s rampaging path. Playing the semi-deluded Marxist academic sees Hawke turn his self up to eleven, verbally girating a mating dance for the Girls generation.
Yet John is no different to his wife. He may see the neglect, but he can also be the instigator. Georgette, played by Julianne Moore, is a bizarre creation. She is a more successful, less deluded version of her husband, but she’s equally crazy. Party this comes from her comical accent, but she even pulls that off for much of the film.
These three wonderful characters swirl, tangle and trip over each other in a coherently messy situation. Maggie’s Plan refers to the only plan in the film that is barely that. Though Gerwig’s natural optimism and half-hearted nature combine to create a sense of accomplishment, Maggie’s tangle ties tighter, bunching John and Georgette’s shoelaces with her own, leaving all three liable to falling in the dirt.
Rebecca Miller’s film feels something like Frances Ha v. Before Sunset; A modern Woody Allen without Woody Allen. This composite brings the good and the bad. The direction and screenplay, both by Miller, brings a wider scope than if this was an Allen production. It’s not so punchy or evocative, but allows a fuller view of the picture to be seen. Though Gerwig is the protagonist and all is tied to the moments of her little finger, the characters and their actions aren’t as narrowed as Allen can sometimes create, nor as they as obnoxious. Saying that, they’re hardly a delight to be around, and the flaws are aplenty.
But being without a mind like Allen’s does leave something lacking. It may be a real sense of importance to the story, it may be the totally original cutting satire or simply that it lacks the final knock-out blow, but this jigsaw is missing a few pieces from its frame.
Regardless, the characters are perfectly-formed, the story is exciting and importantly, it is really funny. Maggie’s Plan may not be perfect, but it’s as charming and comforting as the thick, patterned, pastel pullovers its cast inhabit.
Maggie’s Plan is out on 8 July.
Images courtesy of hollywoodreporter and imdb respectively.