What Maisie Knew (2013)


So does this mean my daddy ever really wanted to play “catch” with me?

Seven-year-old Maisie (Onata Aprile) is the innocent, young girl who just so happens to be in the middle of a nasty, vengeful divorce. Her mother, Susanna (Julianne Moore), is a musician that’s constantly recording, dysfunctional, and tours for long periods of time; whereas her father, Beale (Steve Coogan), isn’t any better neither. He’s rarely ever around and always off on his own “business trips”, which just leaves the young nanny (Joanna Vanderham) to take care of Maisie. However, once both sides of the divorce start to find more and more problems, they begin to through Maisie to the curb more and rather than caring for her because they want to, they soon start to find her as more of a crutch. That is, with the exception of one person: Susanna’s new hubby, Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgård).

The people that I know and hang around nowadays still find it odd that I can say that my parents are still together after over 30 years of marriage, are still happy, and plan on being together for the rest of their lives. They’re very old-school in the sense that they stuck with one person and that was that, but while many people view that as a negative, as if you can’t be yourself or make yourself happy at all, they, as well as myself, see it as more of a positive. But in today’s day and age, more and more married-couples, long term or short, are beginning to separate and divorce. Why? Well, I can’t find the main solution to that problem, other than the fact that there are more opportunities out there to make your life happy, so why sit by one right now, especially if it’s inconsistent? That’s just my take though, I’m not married, never have been (not that I know of), and don’t have any kids (or at least one’s that I don’t pay for), so take what you will from me and go about your day.

Just proves that rock stars can't raise kids. Or dress appropriately enough in public.
Just proves that rock stars can’t raise kids. Or dress appropriately enough in public.

However, despite the old-school couple I got going on in my crib, there are still plenty of people that I know or associate myself with that are children of divorce. Some find it easier than others, but the ones that find it hard, it really tears them up, even until this day. My cousins were apart of a divorce that occurred not only when they were very young, but when I was as well. I was very intrigued, but very confused at the same time as to what divorce was and whether or not it was as sad as it seems to be. Then again though, I was young, somewhat pleasant to be around, and always questioned everything that irked me, no matter where I was or went.

Anyway, fact of the matter is that divorce isn’t the type of subject i’m an expert on, but I feel like I know enough about the simpler things in life like parenting, taking care of loved ones, and so on and so forth, hence why this flick really worked for me. At first, I felt like it was going to be one of those “message movies” where it shows us how bad divorce is, why it should happen less and less, and why kids who are in the middle of one are ultimately screwed-up for life, but this movie began to show it’s smarts and honesty as time rolled on and more emotions were unearthed. The movie never really condones divorce as an action against the Gods and one that will land you straight into hell upon your death, but it does show you what can happen and how wrong it can go when you aren’t careful about it.

For instance, the married couple of Susanna and Beale seem to be at odds-ends with one another and realize that it’s better that they just get the hell out of one another’s sight, but keep Maisie in the loop and love her forever. In this case, it’s easier said then done and it’s hard to watch because you know Maisie doesn’t deserve any ounce of this, no kid does, but you can’t help but realize that this is something that probably happens almost each and every day in the world we live in. Kids are constantly in the middle of nasty divorces and don’t have a say in the world, except for the parent’s themselves who are probably in ways, more immature than the actual kids themselves. Watching as Maisie keeps her head up throughout the whole proceedings, even when she simply gets tossed-around worse than a potato salad in a buffet line, is simply inspirational and a work of beauty to see, even if you are or aren’t a child of divorce.

The movie knows that divorce, like many other things in life, will happen. It’s just all a matter of if it’s done in a right way where people aren’t too hurt by what’s happening, especially the kids themselves. Sounds like some soapy stuff, which it does get to be after awhile, but it always remains true and honest. As well as insightful, even for a kid who has never had to deal with divorce. I’d consider myself lucky, then again though, most of the people that I do know who are victims of divorce, don’t really seem as mentally messed-up as the rest of society seems to paint them as. However, that’s a whole other different discussion. One that the movie doesn’t really discuss, and with good reason too because this is Maisie’s story; one that’s probably no different from more than a hundred other divorce stories out there, but here’s is special for many reasons. The main which being that Maisie herself is played to perfection by a young star with a very bright future on her hands: Onata Aprile.

Most child performances can go either way: they can be really strong because the child-actor his/herself feels like a real kid, just being themselves; or, they can be too annoying or over-the-top with their act, as if they were paid in Skittles and Starburst to go out there and act their assess off. However, Aprile’s performance is the farthest thing from being annoying or over-the-top, instead, she just feels like a real kid, going through a real problem, and taking the real, harsh realities of life, as if she’s been experiencing them for years. What makes Maisie such a wonderful character, and why Aprile is so perfect in this role, is because Maisie never begs or pleads for our sympathy, nor does she seem to need it. She seems like a strong enough gal that loves life too much to let it get her down, but also loves the people that inhabit that life of hers as well, even if most of them don’t deserve it in the least bit. This allows her to stay strong, even when everybody else around her has seem to lost hope in getting up and caring for her. Aprile is great at showing us this kind, sweet, little girl that wants love and deserves it, but on top of that, deserves to be with people who will give all of the love and care that she oh so desires.

Nobody's walking on the streets of NYC during the middle of the day?
Nobody’s walking on the streets of NYC during the middle of the day?

She reminded me of what it was like to be a kid, except she was more subtle and silent with her emotions. I’m just saying, if I didn’t get to Toys R Us at least once a week, tantrums were thrown.

Everybody else is great too, even if the problem with Aprile being so good and subtle, sort of has everybody else pale in comparison. Julianne Moore is great as the hard-edged, bimbo rock star that doesn’t really know what to do with Maisie, except for having to know that she needs to be taken care of when it’s her time and place. Moore brings out a lot of heart and depth within this character and shows her more than just an obvious character that’s easy to point the big finger at, but there’s only so much she can do to where it seems like the character is just too unlikable and stupid to even consider caring about. Same goes for Steve Coogan as the father, who shows some much-needed empathy that’s been brewing for so long beneath this character, but feels too much like a total dick to even be bothered with in the first place. It’s heart-breaking to watch as these two a-holes mess around with Maisie’s life, but it’s probably just a fact of life for most kids going through the same problems. To be honest though, it doesn’t quite give me any more need or desires to want to watch that fact of life be seen on the screen, over and over again. It’s sad to know it exists, but do I really want to see it? Especially if I don’t live with it myself? Okay, I just sound like a dick. I’m gone!

Consensus: Regardless of if you, or anybody you’ve ever known has been apart of a divorce, What Maisie Knew is still a worth while flick because of the honest heart it has at the center of it’s message, as well as the heart-breaking performance from the young Onata Aprile herself, who seems like she might have a bright career ahead of herself, as long as she keeps her eyes on the prize. The prize being respectable, future film roles.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Yes, draw that vampire. Aren't they so rad."
“Yes, draw that vampire. Aren’t they so rad?”
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17 comments

  1. Susanna and Beale did not get a divorce – they were never married. Susanna even explicitly says, “It’s not like we were even married…”

  2. Great review. Saw this last month and was really surprised by how much I liked it. It isn’t a manipulative film and it’s great how Maurice is in every single scene. You really get to see things through her eyes

  3. I haven’t been as excited about seeing a movie as I am for this one in a long time. I’m so excited that I can’t even properly form sentences, apparently. Onata Aprile was amazing in the trailer alone.

  4. I caught this as an online screener that had buffering issues, but I still had to keep watching. Really naturalistic and I like the kids-eye-view of the film. Glad others are getting a chance to see this movie. nice review as always.

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