Writer/director Rebecca Miller had a plan of her own with her new film, Maggie’s Plan. Basically that was to lighten up. Her previous films Personal Velocity, The Battle Of Jack And Rose and The Private Lives Of Pippa Lee tended toward the more serious side, although the latter had some level of fun to it. Now though she has drifted into screwball comedy and the kind of thing Woody Allen does in his sleep. If his films were an inspiration of some sort for this – and how can they not be – then she has learned well, and made her own mark on the genre with a movie that has its nutty moments but never once drifts from being character-driven, real and believable. All key ingredients when making this kind of souffle that could fall with just the slightest wrong turn.
Greta Gerwig is perfect casting as Maggie, a woman who feels the clock ticking and wants a child but doesn’t have the husband. She sets out to pick a sperm donor and finds a potential one in an affable former classmate (Travis Fimmel of Vikings) she barely remembers. But just as she’s about to go forward, she meets John (Ethan Hawke), whose unhappy marriage to intellectual Georgette (Julianne Moore) is fading. They strike up a relationship and voila — time passes, they are married, and Maggie has that kid. But something’s not right and Maggie senses it. What does she do? Quite unpredictably she dives into her extended family and has yet another plan that is anything but orthodox, but wonderfully satisfying. Basically Maggie’s Plan is about family, but not the traditional kind. It smartly, and without judging, suggests there are all kinds of connections that people make, and a true family can be the result of that. Ultimately Maggie learns though that “plans” aren’t always the answer and that maybe the best plan is no plan at all. Live life as it comes along. What a concept.
Miller based her script on an unfinished novel by Karen Rinaldi, who gets story credit here. She fleshes the main idea out nicely and populates it with mostly likable, if sometimes complicated people. Maggie herself, in the hands of Gerwig, can get to be a bit much at times, but we do have a nice place in our hearts for this mixed up person. Hawke drolly adds much to John, who keeps finding himself caught up in the middle of these plans. Moore steals every scene she’s in with a crazy straight-up bun for a hairstyle and pinpoint Danish accent. She seems fine to settle for a supporting role here and when she is on screen you are watching no one else. It’s nice to see her get a shot at using her considerable comedic chops for a change. There are also some fun moments provided by Bill Hader and Maya Rudolph as, what else, friends with lots of opinions. Fimmel plays nicely against his tough guy TV image. Damon Cardasis, Rachel Horovitz and Miller produced using nifty NYC locations. Sony Pictures Classics puts the film into limited release today.
Do you plan to see Maggie’s Plan? Let us know what you think.