Movie review of ‘Maggie’s Plan’: Greta Gerwig channels Diane Keaton in this New York-set romantic comedy that’s part screwball, part Shakespeare. Rating: 3.5 stars out of 4.
A contemporary New York rom-com set among people who sip from NPR mugs in bed and slip phrases like “ficto-critical anthropology” into conversation, “Maggie’s Plan” sounds like something you’ve seen already. But writer/director Rebecca Miller has something else in mind: It’s a sweet, faintly screwball, faintly Shakespearean look at love, families and what happens when a well-made plan goes just a bit awry.
Maggie (Greta Gerwig, nicely deploying her scattery, young-Diane Keaton-ish quality), in her 30s and wanting a child, makes a plan, as is her habit: She’ll become a single mother with a bit of help from a former college acquaintance (Travis Fimmel) who’s a “pickle entrepreneur.” But a funny thing happens on the way to insemination: Maggie meets and falls in love with John (Ethan Hawke), a professor and would-be novelist, who’s married to the brilliant Danish academic Georgette (Julianne Moore).
The screwball? It’s in that insemination scene (there’s a sudden, wonderfully ill-timed phone call); it’s in Gerwig’s way of walking and talking in funny, explosive little spurts; it’s in the way everyone in the movie seems to be dancing circles around everyone else. The Shakespeare? There’s a “Midsummer Night’s Dream” quality to the whole thing, from an actor overheard in the park (“Who will not change a raven for a dove?”) to Maggie’s well-meaning scheme to solve an unexpected love triangle. Other pleasures: the language (when’s the last time you saw a movie in which someone murmured “Nobody unpacks commodity fetishisms like you do”?) and the funny character detail. I particularly appreciated Moore’s volcanic Georgette — she always seems to be wearing something that she’s just flung around herself in anger — and Bill Hader as Maggie’s faithful confidante who nonetheless tells her, quite rightly, that she’s “such a hall monitor!”
Movie Review ★★★½
‘Maggie’s Plan,’ with Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke, Julianne Moore, Bill Hader, Mayer Rudolph, Travis Fimmel. Written and directed by Rebecca Miller, based on a story by Karen Rinaldi. 98 minutes. Rated R for language and brief sexuality. Several theaters.
By the end, as our heroine’s eyes are irresistibly lit up with yet another plan, you realize that “Maggie’s Plan” is over too soon. It’s a fresh, playful take on a familiar formula.
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