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VUE REVIEWS Maggies Plan

This quirky film from director Rebecca Miller succeeds as a thoroughly enjoyable alternative take on the rom-com formula.

This quirky film from director Rebecca Miller succeeds as a thoroughly enjoyable alternative take on the rom-com formula.

By Matt Pucci

In Rebecca Miller's modern romantic comedy Maggie’s Plan, Greta Gerwig (Mistress America, Frances Ha) portrays the title character, a quirky, bookish New Yorker, who, despite deciding that artificial insemination is the only way she’s ever going to have a baby, falls for married man John (Ethan Hawke) after a pay cheque mix-up at the university where they work. John is struggling to complete his novel, hinting to Maggie that it’s his marriage – or rather, more specifically, his needy wife Georgette – that’s holding him back.

Flouting a prior arrangement with a former college buddy turned “pickle entrepreneur”, Maggie soon starts to see herself as John’s saviour and, lo and behold, three years later, the pair are living together with their new daughter Lily, while Georgette (Julianne Moore) is left to pick up the pieces of her wrecked marriage.
Maggie's Plan
If this all seems a little sudden, it’s because the film’s got a lot to get through before we actually get to the plan of the film’s title: after realising that John is just another self-absorbed wannabe novelist, Maggie hatches a plot to reunite him with his ex-wife, with whom—she suspects—he’s still in love.

Sound absurd? It is a bit, but thanks to an impressive cast and a superb screenplay, director Rebecca Miller makes it work, and Maggie’s Plan succeeds as a thoroughly enjoyable alternative take on the rom-com formula. It zips along at a fair old pace, with whip-smart dialogue throughout, as well as overt tones of Woody Allen in the not-so-subtle digs at the world of academia and middle-class ennui (“What is a ficto-critical anthropologist, anyway?”). Maya Rudolph (Bridesmaids) and Bill Hader (The Skeleton Twins) are excellent as Maggie’s married couple chums, who remind us that love is “illogical, wasteful, and messy.”
Maggie's Plan
There are lessons for Maggie; lessons about love, motherhood, and self-sacrifice, and though there are moments of melancholy sprinkled liberally across the film’s ninety-odd minutes, as well as some delightfully touching scenes between Maggie and her daughter, Maggie’s Plan never ventures too close to anything melodramatic, opting instead for frivolity and fun. Gerwig, who is carving out an exceptional career in the indie movie genre – is a captivating lead, portraying Maggie’s foolhardiness and purity of spirit with elegance and charm, while Julianne Moore is curiously comical as the icy, intense Georgette. Indeed, it’s she who elicits the biggest laughs. “No-one unpacks commodity fetishism like you do,” she says to her ex-husband, earnestly, before asking him: “Are we going to die here?” as they stand facing each other in the middle of a snow-covered forest in Quebec.

I knew very little about either Gerwig or Miller prior to watching this, but based on these performances, they are both names I’ll be looking out for in future – particularly when collaborating together.