Matthew Turner casts his critical eye over Rebecca Miller’s New York comedy Maggie’s Plan, starring Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke and Julianne Moore
Director: Rebecca Miller
Starring: Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke, Julianne Moore, Bill Hader, Maya Rudolph, Travis Fimmel, Wallace Shawn
Running time: 98 mins
For her fifth feature, following the more sombre likes of The Ballad of Jack and Rose (2005) and The Private Lives of Pippa Lee (2009), writer-director Rebecca Miller reveals a pleasing lightness of touch with this highly entertaining New York comedy that feels of a piece with the work of Nicole Holofcener and Noah Baumbach, with a dash of Woody Allen thrown in for good measure.
To that end, it’s Miller’s most easily accessible and certainly her most enjoyable film to date, heightened by bracingly funny script and a trio of terrific comic performances.
Greta Gerwig stars as single 30-something career advisor Maggie, whose recently-put-into-practice plan to have a baby on her own hits a snag when she falls for John (Ethan Hawke), a married adjunct professor at the New College, where she works.
John, in turn, falls in love with Maggie after she critiques his unfinished novel and, three years later, he has left his successful Danish academic wife Georgette (Julianne Moore) and has an adorable three year-old daughter (Ida Rohatyn) with Maggie.
However, Maggie, worries that she made a terrible mistake and plots to engineer a surreptitious reconciliation between John and Georgette.
Cleaving fairly closely to her usual screen persona, Greta Gerwig delivers one of her best performances to date as Maggie, a cheerful but neurotic woman with underlying controlling tendencies. The fact that she’s not entirely sympathetic gives the film an intriguing edge that sets it apart from standard romcom fare.
Hawke is equally good as the self-obsessed would-be author, and he generates palpable chemistry with Gerwig, especially during the heady rush of their initial attraction.
In addition, there’s strong comic support from Bill Hader, as Maggie’s ex-boyfriend-turned-best-friend and from Travis Fimmel as Guy, the maths genius turned would-be pickle entrepreneur that Maggie chooses as her sperm donor before meeting John.
Julianne Moore delivers a pitch-perfect performance
However, the film is roundly stolen by Moore, who delivers a pitch-perfect comic performance, complete with thick and surprisingly accurate-sounding Danish accent (at times, it’s like the welcome return of Maude Lebowski), a chunky knitwear wardrobe and an amusingly towering hair-bun – she also invests Georgette with an affecting under-the-surface emotional undercurrent in what could easily have been a more caricatured role.
Miller’s script, from a story by Karen Rinaldi, is appealingly unpredictable (notably in the sudden three-year time jump) and the dialogue is packed with funny lines, such as an on-board-with-Maggie’s-plan Georgette purring “no one unpacks commodity fetishism like you do” to John as she attempts to seduce him.
Combining a sharply written script and delightful comic performances, this is a thoroughly entertaining New York comedy that’s well worth your time. Highly recommended.
Maggie’s Plan is released on July 8. It screens at Edinburgh International Film Festival on 26 June at 1.20pm