Maggie’s Plan (2015)

  • Time: 92 min
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Director: Rebecca Miller
  • Cast: Greta Gerwig, Julianne Moore, Ethan Hawke


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 and impossible Georgette. But one daughter and three years later, Maggie is out of love and in a quandary: what do you do when you suspect your man and his ex wife are actually perfect for each other?

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  • A delightful screwball comedy that revolves around a young woman who discovers that life is not always within her control, Maggie’s Plan features charming performances from its leading trio of Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke and Julianne Moore as well as excellent supporting turns from Bill Hader, Maya Rudolph and Travis Fimmel.

    As the title states, Maggie (Gerwig) has a plan though what that plan actually is mutates over the three-year time period during covered within the film. Unlucky in love – she’s either falling out of love or is involved with people who can’t sustain their romantic feelings for her – but determined to have a baby, she decides to have herself artificially inseminated. She doesn’t want the method to be a last resort, she explains to her old college boyfriend turned pal and confidante Tony (Hader), she wants it to be a choice. And she already has a candidate lined up: a guy named Guy (Fimmel), a bearded, oddly courteous artisanal pickle entrepreneur who also happens to be a math genius.

    Then along comes John (Hawke), the bad boy professor of the amusingly titled ficto-critical anthropology who is also a neurotic of the first order, an aspiring novelist, and somewhat unhappily married to Georgette, a terrifying glacier of a woman portrayed to delectable perfection by Moore. Armoured with a formidable haughtiness and intellect and attired in furs, leathers and sweaters, she resembles nothing so much as a Viking queen come in from a hunt. Her ambition easily overshadows her husband, who is quickly enamoured with Maggie’s enthusiastic and encouraging opinions about his work-in-progress novel, which is a thinly veiled account of his marriage. Hawke is never sexier than when he’s listening and in awe of a bright and beautiful woman – see the whole of the Before trilogy, but particularly the closing moments of Before Sunset as he watches Julie Delpy groove to Nina Simone – and his rapport with both actresses along with his sympathetic playing allows audiences to be simultaneously exasperated and endeared by his need to be saved only for that need to turn into resentment for his saviour.

    Maggie derails her plans – her insemination is interrupted by John’s declaration of love – and three years later, they are married and parents to an adorable moppet named Lily. But Maggie is feeling neglected – she’s constantly accommodating John’s needs with no reciprocal consideration (“Am I so capable that I don’t deserve attention?” she posits to John) – and she wonders to Felicia (Rudolph), Tony’s wife and her colleague, if she might have made a mistake, especially since Georgette is more of a presence in John’s life now that they’re divorced. “Too bad you can’t give him back to his ex-wife,” Felicia quips, prompting Maggie to devise a new plan that almost unfolds like a murder being plotted. In a way, it is – the murder of her marriage.

    Written and directed with the lightest and most sophisticated of touches by Rebecca Miller, Maggie’s Plan is a consistently appealing brew as the trio go through their various configurations. The film bears all the hallmarks of a remarriage screwball comedy – from the sometimes outsized personalities to situational tropes like being snowed in or even absurd snatches of dialogue such as Georgette’s admiring “No one unpacks commodity fetishism like you do” to John. Briskly paced, the film carries audiences along with Maggie’s efforts to do the right thing, but without having to make a mess of things. Of course, as Tony points out, life is nothing but a giant mess even when lived with good intentions. Though Moore steals every scene she’s in, the premise would never get off the ground without Gerwig’s nimble work. Gerwig is a unique actress, one who pulls a narrative into her own orbit rather than submitting to it, and one could strongly argue that the film would not be the hilarious, frequently heartbreaking, and always heartwarming work that it is without her presence.

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