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Maggie’s Plan

In “Maggie’s Plan,” Greta Gerwig plays more or less the same character she always does, a woman who can’t quite keep everything she thinks or feels from appearing on her face or escaping her mouth, no matter how hard she tries.  She’s slightly miscast as Maggie, whose main characteristic is that she is almost terminally competent. Anna Kendrick would be a better fit, but since I think Anna Kendrick would be better than whoever is cast is almost every movie that is made, I guess that’s a moot point.

Ethan Hawke is also playing a very familiar character, a slacker philosopher who you think has a heart of gold but turns out to be terribly self-absorbed. Julianne Moore can play almost anything, but her character here – an icy Icelandic “ficto-critical anthropologist” is very similar to Maude in “The Big Lebowski.”

They all live in the same slice of New York that most Woody Allen and Noah Baumbach characters live in.  Hawke and Moore are both professors; Gerwig helps artists find practical applications for their art, so they can live.  Hawke is married to Moore, but falls in love with Gerwig. He tells her that in every relationship, someone is the rose and someone the gardener, and he’s clearly tired of being the gardener. Instead of finding a better metaphor, he leaves his wife, marries Maggie (Gerwig,) and becomes the rose. But it’s not long before Maggie decides she’s pretty tired of being the gardener, too.

From one angle, “Maggie’s Plan” is a screwball comedy, about Maggie’s attempts to get her husband to fall in love with his ex-wife, so she can leave him without guilt.  But it’s also clear that director Rebecca Miller wants it to be more than that; wants to say something about both the futility and the necessity of the plans we make, the ways they are an attempt to get a handle on the messiness and chaos that is life and relationships, and how we never really do get a handle.

I don’t know about this. I mean, I see the point – man makes his plans, and God laughs – but the parts of “Maggie’s Plans” that are really good and full of life are, oddly, the more formulaic parts. The deeper, more sophisticated parts feel a bit clunky or unwieldy. Perhaps Miller just needs to grow as a filmmaker into the themes she really wants to explore – at this point, she has more ambition than skill. That’s not necessarily bad. But I have this movie in my head, this fully committed, over the top screwball comedy, in which Greta Gerwig scurries around a snow-covered Canadian retreat center trying to engineer a romance between Julianne Moore and Ethan Hawke without getting caught.  And, in my head at least, it’s a really funny, smart, sweet movie. “Maggie’s Plan” is a good movie, one I really enjoyed and recommend. But it’s not the movie in my head, and I wish it was.

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Posted in All Reviews, by Will Krischke.

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