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USA 2016
Directed by
Rebecca Miller
98 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Chris Thompson
3.5 stars

Maggie's Plan

Synopsis: Maggie (Greta Gerwig) has a history of failed relationships so when she decides she wants a baby she enlists an old college friend, Guy (Travis Fimmel), to be her sperm donor. But her plan is derailed when she falls in love with John (Ethan Hawke), a married man. Their affair ends his volatile marriage to the brilliant academic Georgette (Julianne Moore).  Maggie and John have a baby together, but three years later their relationship is on the rocks and Maggie devises a new plan to get Georgette and John back together.

There’s a touch of Woody Allen to this sharp, witty comedy set in Brooklyn – at least the Woody Allan from the good old days of Annie Hall (1977) and Manhattan (1979) - and Greta Gerwig is perfect for the lead role; she’s a funny, smart actor best known for her films with Noah Baumbach, most notably Frances Ha (2013)   and last year’s Mistress America (both of which she also wrote). Maggie's Plan is a great vehicle for her and she really embodies the role. Maggie’s a control freak who’s never really in control (at one point she admits that she doesn’t like the idea of leaving destiny up to destiny).

Miller is better known as a screenwriter than a director (she wrote John Madden’s 2005 film, Proof ) but here, working from a story by Karen Rinaldi, she succeeds in both roles. The film wastes no time with establishing shots and preambles: it jumps right in with Maggie telling her best friend, young father, Tony,that she wants a baby and, considering that none of her relationships last, she’s resigned to achieving motherhood on her own. It’s almost the first line in the film and the story continues moving at a cracking pace for most of its hour and forty minutes.

The cast is uniformly strong. Hawke is convincing and funny as the wishy-washy, self-interested wannabe author, John, and Moore is very funny as his powerful, successful and overly assertive wife(although she has the oddest German/Danish accent which I found to be more distracting than humorous). Maggie’s friends and confidents, Tony and Felicia, are played by Bill Hader and Mayer Rudolph, both Saturday Night Live alumni, who serve their roles well. But in the supporting cast, it’s Australian model-turned-actor Fimmel (still sporting his ragged beard from his role on the TV hit Vikings) who is the stand out. Tony describes him as that maths guy who ended up selling pickles but Maggie corrects her friend – “he’s a pickle entrepreneur”.

The music by Michael Rohatyn is an eclectic mix of whimsical jaunty klezmer-influenced tracks along with more lyrical tunes touched with echoes of a bygone era of romantic comedies. It doesn’t have the depth of Gerwig’s other films, but then it doesn’t it aspire to. It’s quite happy to sit in the rarefied world of academia where its self-obsessed characters wrestle with their first world problems and, while making us laugh, it doesn’t tell us much more about the human condition than the fact that life and love and families can be messy.




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