Who needs a plan when you can just sleep around?
At this point in her life, Maggie (Greta Gerwig) feels as if it’s about time to start having a baby. While she doesn’t have a man in her life that she can settle down with and actually have the baby with, she still knows that she can have a baby, if solely through a sperm donor. The man she chooses is a former classmate of hers, who now sells pickles (Travis Fimmell). While he totally agrees to it and gives her the sample, for some reason, Maggie gets a little side-tracked. She meets a fellow teacher, John (Ethan Hawke), who takes a liking to her and they start to hang out a whole lot. Even though he’s married to the intimidating, but incredibly pretentious Georgette (Julianne Moore), there’s still something bright and youthful about Maggie that John can’t seem to keep himself away from, but how much is he willing to screw up his whole family for her? Better yet, how much is Maggie willing and able to screw things up with her situation, to then start a life with John and become something she never saw herself as being?
It’s hard not to look at Maggie’s Plan as some sort of sequel to Frances Ha, in which Greta Gerwig’s titular character has now grown up a tad bit, got her own place, found a steady job, and is now thinking about the next stage in her life. Sure, you could definitely say that it’s a bit of a stretch, or not one at all, depending on how you look at it, but it’s hard not to compare the two, especially with what writer/director Rebecca Miller goes for here (that serio-screwball/tragicomedy kind of movie), and how it compares a lot to Noah Baumbach’s style. That said, are both movies the same?
Nope, not really.
In all honesty, it doesn’t matter because Maggie’s Plan is a good movie that, excluding Gerwig and her lovely presence, still works; it’s about much more than Maggie and her “plan”. In a way, it’s about how that plan constantly changes and takes on different forms over time, to where people’s lives are changed and she has no clue how it happened, or what to do about it. It’s odd that Miller is taking on something as silly and light as this can be, especially considering how dark, dramatic and bare her past movies could get, but it’s still nice to see her trying out different things, even if they don’t always work.
See, with Maggie’s Plan, Miller is going for two things here and she doesn’t hit the nail perfectly on the head. There’s plenty of funny moments that are, at the very least, chuckle worthy, but never to extreme laughter, and the dramatic moments, as rare as they come around, often feel like they’re supposed to be more important than they actually appear to be in the movie. There’s two sides to Maggie’s Plan, and they’re both interesting, but Miller can never make up her clear mind of which side she’s willing to take and run wild with; you can make both movies simultaneously, but there has to be a better switch than what Miller sometimes does here.
That said, there’s more good than bad within Maggie’s Plan; there’s a darker undercurrent of a story that’s briefly hinted at, and had Miller gone further down the road, the movie would have been far more sad and emotional. It’s probably a good thing that she didn’t go down that road because the movie does an awful lot of skewering and making fun of these kinds of New York intellectuals that, so often in movies, are loved and beheld as some sort of “God sends”. Sure, these people are fine and they do exist, but Miller herself knows that it’s also fun poke jokes at their expense to, while also not forgetting about their humanity, either.
And yeah, it also helps that the cast is pretty great, too.
Gerwig has played this kind of character before many, many times before and it’s still fine here; there’s a sense that she’s growing older and becoming more mature with each role, so it’ll be interesting where she takes it next. However, the movie isn’t always about her, as it’s much more about those around her, like Ethan Hawke and Julianne Moore’s characters. As John, Hawke does his best to be charming and likable, even if the character he plays is sometimes so infuriating and nauseating, you want him to be gone and told to “pipe down”. But because it’s Hawke, all of the annoying things he goes on and on about for no reason or another, there’s something endearing to it all.
Moore, on the other hand, is playing a Danish writer and while the role may seem really silly and over-the-top, Moore gets to the heart and soul of this character and makes us see her as a person. This is also a testament to Miller’s writing, showing that this kind of woman does exist, but she’s not such a terrible person in the first place, even if she’s made out to be that way. It also helps that Bill Hader and Maya Rudolph show up as a married-couple, who also happen to be Maggie’s best pals and they always tell it like it is. They’re funny and smart, even if they show up for a little bit, every so often. Each time is as good as the last, but come on, where’s the movie about them?
I wouldn’t mind that one bit. Although, Maggie’s Plan is just fine, too.
Consensus: Despite its never ending battle with tone, Maggie’s Plan works because of its charming and likable cast, and affection for their characters, even if they aren’t always making the best, brightest decisions.
7 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire