By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
In the past couple of years actress Greta Gerwig has starred in some of my favorite comedies. Particularly her collaborations with writer/director Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha, Mistress America) have impressed me the most. Well Gerwig is back in theaters with another great comedy. Only this time, she is working with writer/director Rebecca Miller. Though I absolutely love Gerwig’s work with Baumbach, it is actually fun and refreshing to see her do something just a little bit different. With mostly masterful comedic writing and some stupendous performances by the cast, Maggie’s Plan could possibly be a dark horse nominee for comedy accolades this year.
Gerwig stars as Maggie, an intelligent and independent college adviser whose biological clock is ticking, but has had no success romantically. She decides to take the artificial insemination route with a donation from a former colleague named Guy (Travis Fimmel). This plan gets floored when Maggie unexpectedly falls in love with a married professor/writer named John (Ethan Hawke). John, who happens to be unhappily married to the more successful/famous anthropologist Georgette (Julianne Moore), eventually divorces his wife and ends up in a relationship with Maggie. The new couple later have a child who makes Maggie tremendously happy. However, marital woes due to John’s self-centered personality causes Maggie to fall out of love with him. Unhappy with the direction her relationship is taking, and fearful of the repercussions it could have for her child, Maggie comes up with a new plan to reunite John with his ex Georgette.
Written and directed by Rebecca Miller based on a story by Karen Rinaldi, Maggie’s Plan is an absolutely charming and often hilarious screwball comedy that draws obvious inspirations from Shakespeare (particularly A Midsummer Night’s Dream) and Woody Allen’s relationship comedies. Miller’s screenplay features some of the most intelligent comedic writing I have seen this year, but at the same time satirizes intellectuals and the pretentiousness of which they are sometimes guilty. Miller and Rinaldi’s message is that deep down inside, no matter how intelligent someone is, people are still people and are capable of making some bad decisions and exercising poor judgment. Miller uses this message well in the development of her characters. Miller, as a director, presents a film that is light and breezy, but still features timeless and relevant problems of everyday life.
As silly as they may come across at times, the characters feel like real and genuine people, with all of their charms and foibles. Even Julianne Moore, who adopts a heavy accent for the role, feels fully fleshed and not cartoonish. This is thanks to both the writing and the excellent acting by Moore who delivers what may be her funniest performance to date. Ethan Hawke performs well as the intelligent, but selfish and insecure John who never seems to know what he really wants out of life. The movie also features hilarious supporting turns by Bill Hader and Maya Rudolph who portray Maggie’s close friends Tony and Felicia. Hader manages to steal one scene, in particular, with an exclamation and a few words that come across as a happy accident. As for the lead star of the show, Greta Gerwig is absolutely adorable as usual, but actually plays a character that is less neurotic than some of her previous roles. I rather enjoyed this change of pace for Gerwig because it gives her a chance to express more of her range as an actress.
Without a doubt, Gerwig knows how to pick great film projects. She has definitely been on a roll with four great comedies in a row (Frances Ha, The Humbling, Mistress America, and Maggie’s Plan) and has another film due in theaters soon. Her next movie is a collaboration with writer/director Todd Solondz (Welcome to the Dollhouse, Happiness). I really look forward to seeing her work with Solondz, as he is known for his more provocative approach to story material. One doesn’t have to be a huge fan of, or be familiar with Greta Gerwig to enjoy this movie. Miller’s film delivers laughs galore and is one of this year’s more enjoyable comedies. Even though its presentation doesn’t beg to be seen on the big screen, it is a quality independent film that deserves some attention and recognition.