Synopsis: 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.
Release Date: May 27, 2016 MPAA Rating: PG-13
I should open this review of Maggie’s Plan by admitting that I am a big fan of Greta Gerwig. Last year, she starred in one of the best comedies of the year, Mistress America. A couple of years before that, she lit up the screen in Francis Ha. Heck, she was even one of my favorite things about Ti West’s The House of the Devil, although she was only in it for a few brief moments (no spoilers.but it’s a horror movie so you can probably guess her fate). The point is, I went into Maggie’s Plan in a good mood, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Maggie’s Plan stars Gerwig as the titular Maggie Hardin, whose plan at the beginning of the movie is to have a baby, despite the fact that she has no man in her life. She selects an old high school acquaintance named Guy (Travis Fimmel from “Vikings”) to be her sperm donor, but before she can complete the process, she meets John Harding (Ethan Hawke from Boyhood), an author/teacher with whom she falls in love. The problem is that John is married to the worldly and sophisticated Georgette (Still Alice‘s Julianne Moore). So then, Maggie’s plan becomes to convince John to leave his wife and marry her. Which she does, but three years and one baby later, Maggie comes to the realization that John and Georgette were meant to be together. She then changes her plan into one to get John and Georgette back together.
That may sound like a little too much of a synopsis, but Maggie’s Plan is a bit episodical in execution, and each “plan” is like a different chapter in the film, so it’s really not giving away any secrets. Written and directed by Rebecca Miller (The Private Lives of Pippa Lee), the movie is not exactly a fun romp, but it manages to be multidimensional without coming off as being pretentious. It’s also charmingly humorous without sacrificing any of its heart and soul. The entertainment factor of the movie is also helped by the presence of “Saturday Night Live” alums Bill Hader (The Skeleton Twins) and Maya Rudolph (Bridesmaids) as Maggie’s married-with-children pals. So, it’s got a lot more going for it than the average, more madcap comedy.
With all of the self-centered manipulation that she does, it would seem as if Maggie would come across as an unlikable character, but Greta Gerwig plays her in a way where she’s wacky and whimsical rather than cunning and deceitful. She’s still manipulative, just not evilly so; she believes that she has everyone’s best interests at heart, and Gerwig’s charismatic performance convinces the audience of that as well.
Maggie’s Plan has its issues, both narratively and technically (the typicality of Travis Fimmel’s Guy character and the annoyingness of Julianne Moore’s accent quickly come to mind), but fans of Greta Gerwig (like me) will forgive them, because as usual, she shines in it. There’s not much to it, but it’s as good as witty romantic comedies get these days, even if it’s neither romantic nor much of a comedy.
The first noticeable thing about the music in Maggie’s Plan is that Maggie listens to first wave ska, and the soundtrack reflects it well by containing tracks like “Rudy, a Message to You” by Dandy Livingstone, “Man in the Street” by Don Drummond, and “Musical Communion” by Baba Brooks. But, a little later on, there’s an important revelation in Maggie’s Plan that is uncovered by clever use of music. At one point, John is writing and has Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” blaring. Maggie comes in and immediately turns it down. Later, John and Georgette are stranded at a Canadian lodge and they dance all night to an acoustic version of the song that’s being performed by a live band that includes Bikini Kill frontwoman/90’s indie rock queen Kathleen Hanna (subject of the awesome 2013 documentary The Punk Singer) and actor Tommy Buck (“The Mysteries of Laura”) trading verses. Maggie doesn’t see them dancing and having fun, but the audience does. The fact that Georgette lets John be himself with the music while Maggie shuts it down convinces the viewer that Maggie is correct, and that Georgette is, in fact, the right woman for John. The soundtrack for Maggie’s Plan is more than just a collection of songs that help to sell the movie; it drives home important plot points.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Rebecca Miller
- Producer(s): Damon CardasisRachael HorovitzRebecca Miller
- Screenwriter(s): Rebecca MillerKaren Rinaldi
- Cast: Greta Gerwig (Maggie)Ethan Hawke (John)Julianne Moore (Georgette) Bill Hader (Tony)Maya Rudolph (Felicia)Travis Fimmel (Guy)Wallace Shawn (Kliegler)Mina Sundwall (Justine)Alex Morf (Al Bentwaithe)Jackson Frazer (Paul)Monte Greene (Max)Ida Rohatyn (Lily)
- Editor(s): Sabine Hoffman
- Cinematographer: Sam Levy
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Malgosia Turzanska
- Casting Director(s): Cindy Tolan
- Music Score: Michael Rohatyn
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA