Maggie's Plan 

 

Half

 

 

Rebecca Miller’s film marks a change of direction for her but takes her out of her comfort zone.

 

Maggie's Plan

 

She may be known as the daughter of the famed playwright Arthur Miller but Rebecca Miller has succeeded in making a name for herself both as a novelist and as a filmmaker who writes her own screenplays. Her best film to date is The Private Lives of Pippa Lee (2009) but until now all of her films have been dramas. In Maggie’s Plan, however, she has developed an idea by her writer friend Karen Rinaldi and presents it as a comedy of relationships. Far from being a farce, however, it invites us to believe in the characters and to find something with which to sympathise. Indeed, Miller has described her film as mixing heart and humour and, as such, she leads one to compare Maggie’s Plan with such engaging works as Please Give (2010) and Win Win (2011). This shows good intentions but Miller’s film flounders by comparison.

 

At first the title of this New York comedy appears to refer to the decision of Maggie (Greta Gerwig) to have a baby by artificial insemination  since she is keen to have a child but inept at lasting relationships. But she abandons that plan when she falls for a married college professor and would-be novelist, John Harding (Ethan Hawke). Rather suddenly the film moves forward two years. By then John has divorced his former wife, Georgette (Julianne Moore), and married Maggie by whom he now has a daughter (Ida Rohatyn). However, as John pursues his preferred career as a writer, Maggie becomes dissatisfied. Her new plan, aided by the fact that John is still involved in bringing up his two daughters by Georgette, is to accept that her marriage was a mistake and to find ways that might bring John and Georgette back together again.

 

Early on comedy at the expense of intellectual jargon is rather undermined by the fact that Miller’s screenplay is itself sometimes guilty of that same tone. But more seriously we don’t care about these characters whose feelings fluctuate so much that, even if we smile at times, they become irritating. Miller herself doesn’t seem at ease with comedy and each of the three leads operates in a different register. Gerwig, effortlessly engaging in last year’s Mistress America, puts a lot into the role of Maggie but seems to be trying too hard, while as the Danish Georgette complete with accent Moore plays down and never comes across as a natural comic player. The most balanced performance comes from Ethan Hawke, but not even his perfect pitch can make this film work. The fact that the cast is so talented only adds to the overall sense of disappointment. The film does have a moral - a warning against trying to be in control - but the real moral is to stick to your last.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke, Julianne Moore, Bill Hader, Maya Rudolph, Travis Fimmel, Ida Rohatyn, Wallace Shawn, Mina Sundwall, Jackson Frazer, Monte Greene.

                                                                                                                

Dir Rebecca Miller, Pro Rachael Horovitz, Damon Cardasis and Rebecca Miller, Screenplay (based on the story by Karen Rinaldi) Rebecca Miller, Ph Sam Levy, Pro Des Alexandra Schaller, Ed Sabine Hoffman, Music Michael Rohatyn, Costumes Malgosia Turzanska.

 

Round Films/Rachael Horowitz/Freedom Media-Sony Pictures.
99 mins. USA. 2015. Rel: 8 July 2016. Cert. 15.