Greta Gerwig is surely destined to become the focus of Woody Allen’s attentions sooner or later; the amount of time she spends flitting about New York City in something of a whimsical daydream.
In all fairness, it’s less whimsy and more frumpy idealism that characterises Gerwig’s role in this, Rebecca Miller’s relationship comedy, Maggie’s Plan.
Greta plays the film’s title role, Maggie, a straight-laced, well-intentioned but slightly controlling individual, hell-bent on having a baby of her own. Her plan (her first plan that is), is to artificially inseminate herself using the sperm of pickled gherkin business founder and ‘retired maths genius’ Guy (Travis Fimmel) – himself a little ‘out there’. It’s a solid plan but one which is curtailed at the eleventh hour when a chance encounter with fellow University employee and married man John (the excellent Ethan Hawke), suddenly develops into substantially more, and nature takes its course.
Fast forward a few years and the couple have a young daughter and their own bohemian apartment in the big city.
But as the old Shakespearian adage goes: The course of true love never did run smooth, and Maggie finds herself at a stage in her life, having fallen out of love with John, wondering just exactly what she ever saw in him in the first place. More importantly, she suspects that John and his former wife, Georgette (Julianne Moore) – an independent, strong-willed woman if ever there was one – are in fact perfect for each other after all, despite their turbulent history and their frequent clashes.
But what to do about it?
Maggie’s second plan, that’s what…
Rebecca Miller’s film is certainly innovative in that it puts an interesting twist on the classic Hollywood relationship and reconciliation tale. Defying convention, the film’s lead not only experiences the break up of her relationship, but positively encourages it, having no intention whatsoever of rectifying the situation. This in itself makes for interesting viewing.
There are plenty of amusing moments and some good dialogue and character interactions in this story of mismatched relationships and misunderstandings. Maggie and John seem to have different ideas about their roles within family life, whereas John and Georgette are strong personalities that simply stopped listening to each other properly. Predictably, friction would always ensue.
There’s a fair sense of inevitability about the course that the film eventually takes, and it’s possibly only the strong performances from Hawke and Moore in particular that breathe life into what would otherwise have to be considered a rather patchy affair.
Greta Gerwig plays the role of Maggie well – credit where it’s due – but there was a nagging sense while watching Maggie’s Plan that we’d been here before.
Gerwig already boasts a film biography containing similar roles in similar slice-of-life tales from The Big Apple, with Mistress America, and better still, Frances Ha, immediately springing to mind.
Maggie’s Plan proceeds very much in this vein, and is another perfectly watchable slice-of-life tale from The Big Apple; but it’s certainly no Frances Ha.