Saturday, April 14, 2018
Written and directed by Rebecca Miller from a story by Karen Rinaldi, Maggie’s Plan is the story of a woman who falls in love with a married man only for things go wrong years later as she schemes to get him back to his ex-wife. The film is a romantic comedy of sorts as it plays into a woman who put herself into a situation only to find herself in serious trouble as she becomes part of a messy love triangle. Starring Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke, Bill Hader, Maya Rudolph, Travis Fimmel, Wallace Shawn, and Julianne Moore. Maggie’s Plan is a witty and whimsical film from Rebecca Miller.
The film follows a young woman who meets a writer as they fall in love despite the fact that he’s married to a college professor as they would later marry and have a child only for the marriage to lose its luster where the woman believes her husband is hung up on his ex-wife. It’s a film that explores a woman’s desire to wanting to become a mother only for her plans to just have a child without any emotional attachments to the father only for things to not exactly go her way. Rebecca Miller’s screenplay follows the titular protagonist (Greta Gerwig) who works at the New School in New York City where she’s the director of business development and outreach for the art and design students as she would meet another person at the school in John Harding (Ethan Hawke) over a bill where they have somewhat similar last names as Maggie’s surname is Hardin. Learning that Harding is working on a novelist and married to the famed writer Georgette Norgaard (Julianne Moore) who tenures at Columbia University.
Maggie and Harding befriend one another due to the former’s interest towards the latter’s novel as they suddenly begin an affair where the story moves three years later where they have a daughter named Lily (Ida Rohatyn). Yet, things become complicated as their relationship has hit a funk where Harding would help his ex-wife over business deals with Maggie watching over her teenage stepdaughter Justine (Mina Sundwall) and stepson Paul (Jackson Frazer). Maggie is convinced her relationship with Harding is going to end in divorce where she meets Norgaard about the idea of her getting back with Harding. It all play into Maggie’s need to control the situations as well as reclaim some idea of individuality as she often had to cancel meetings in her job and do all of the things that a mother does with Harding often too consumed with his own work and such. Norgaard is reluctant at first about Maggie’s plan as she’s still got issues with Maggie over her affair with Harding but also realizes that she still has feelings for her ex-husband.
Miller’s direction is straightforward in terms of the compositions and setting as it is shot largely in New York City during the winter as well as locations at upstate New York as Quebec. While there are some wide shots in some scenes, much of Miller’s direction rely on close-ups and medium shots as it relates to the characters interacting with one another. Even in scenes that are lightly comical as it relates to Maggie being with her friends including a man named Guy (Travis Fimmel) whom she originally wanted to impregnate her by donating his sperm. It’s among the lightly-comical moments that include the night Maggie tries to use Guy’s sperm to impregnate herself where Harding has rung the intercom to meet her as it would play into some silliness.
The scenes that showcases Harding’s marriage to Norgaard display that air of inequality where Norgaard is presented as someone that might seem pretentious yet she is revealed to be someone that is an intellectual but with a chip on her shoulder. In the film’s third act, it does become dramatic as it relates to Maggie and Harding yet would have an air of humor in the growing friendship between Maggie and Norgaard as Miller would show the two having common ground as well as create something together that would benefit everyone. Overall, Miller crafts a charming and enjoyable film about a woman’s scheme to get her husband back with his ex-wife that would eventually cause chaos in her own life.
Cinematographer Sam Levy does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it is largely straightforward for its exterior look including the scenes set in Quebec that includes its low-key lighting for the interior scenes at night. Editor Sabine Hoffman does terrific work with the editing as it is straightforward with a few jump-cuts and montages with the latter playing into Maggie’s relationship with Harding early in the film. Production designer Alexandra Schiller, with set decorator Kendall Anderson and art director Brian Goodwin, does fantastic work with the look of the apartments the characters live in from the posh-look of Norgaard to the more Bohemian look of Maggie when she lives with Harding.
Costume designer Malgosia Turzanska does nice work with the costumes as it has a sense of style from the colorful look of Maggie to the more posh look of Norgaard. Sound editor Marlena Grzaslewicz does superb work with the sound in capturing the atmosphere of the hotel in Quebec to the exteriors of New York City. The film’s music by Michael Rohatyn is wonderful for its low-key score that mixes folk and indie music to play into the world of New York City while music supervisor Adam Horowitz provide a mix of music from reggae to rock.
The casting by Cindy Tolan is great as it feature some notable small roles from Wallace Shawn as a Q&A interviewer for Norgaard and Harding early in the film, Kathleen Hanna as a singer at an inn in Quebec, Ida Rohatyn as John and Maggie’s daughter Lily, Jackson Frazer as John and Georgette’s son Paul, and Mina Sundwall as John and Georgette’s teenage daughter Justine who is wondering why her dad is eating with her mom. Bill Hader and Maya Rudolph are superb in their respective roles as Tony and Felicia as friends of Maggie who have a family of their own as they’re concerned about her scheme with Tony being uncomfortable with the situation. Travis Fimmel is terrific as Guy as a friend of Maggie who makes and sells pickles as she wants him to donate his sperm to her only for things to not happen. Ethan Hawke is excellent as John Harding as a college professor for the New School that is trying to create a novel yet often neglects his parental duties and still has feelings for Georgette unaware of what he’s doing to Maggie.
Julianne Moore is incredible as Georgette Norgaard as a Danish intellectual/writer who is also a professor at Columbia University as she has some resentment and anger towards her ex-husband yet still has feelings for him where she would go along with Maggie’s plan only to befriend Maggie as it’s a charming performance from Moore. Finally, there’s Greta Gerwig in a remarkable performance as Maggie Hardin as a director for the New School who is eager to have a child where things don’t go as planned as she tries to take control of the situation in getting her husband back with his ex-wife only to realize her faults and accept about the way things are.
Maggie’s Plan is a marvelous film from Rebecca Miller that features great performances from Greta Gerwig and Julianne Moore. Along with its supporting cast and a witty story of a complicated love triangle, it’s a film that manages to bring something new to the romantic-comedy genre while being a woman’s film in its exploration for them to find their place in the world. In the end, Maggie’s Plan is a brilliant film from Rebecca Miller.
Rebecca Miller Films: (Angela (1995 film)) – Personal Velocity: Three Portraits - The Ballad of Jack and Rose - The Private Lives of Pippa Lee - Arthur Miller: Writer
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