Rebecca Miller’s Maggie’s Plan deals with some big ideas such as life choices and different ways that a family can be constructed.
Greta Gerwig’s Maggie is a fiercely determined academic who is driven to have a child of her own without necessarily having a man in her life. She chooses to go down the route of artificial insemination because her track record with relationships hasn’t been hugely successful for her in the past. Her desire to have a child without having to maintain a stable relationship is a noble one and taps into something very modern in how families are defined.
Things don’t go according to plan when she begins an affair with the married John (Ethan Hawke) who is unhappy in his marriage to Georgette (Julianne Moore) and the result is a child as well as a marriage.
Maggie and John’s family situation is far from conventional as John has two children with his ex-wife and maintains close ties with her so that they can be a part of his life. The twist is that Maggie is more attentive to John’s other children than he is as he is revealed to be a very self centred human being who only seems to be concerned with his own interests and is content to let other people organise his life for him.
Naturally this stretches Maggie to breaking point and she hatches a plan to reunite him with Georgina who is completely onboard as she wants him back. What follows are a series of bizarre situations where Maggie tries to set up her husband with another woman so that she can get some semblance of freedom in her own life. She got the child she wanted and feels that John is more of a burden than anything else.
Maggie is arguably a really selfish character who uses others to get what she wants but Greta Gerwig’s performance remains likeable enough that it never feels malicious. It’s a fine line to walk but a combination of the writing and acting makes it work. I found myself rooting for Maggie to succeed as the film does such a good job of showing how hectic her day to day existence is as well as setting up John as something of a worthless layabout.
John isn’t entirely irredeemable though. He has a unique way of looking at the world that comes across as fairly endearing and there’s a sense that he wants to do right by people but lacks the ability to understand what that actually involves. Ethan Hawke is charismatic enough to add layers to a character that could essentially be the villain of the piece.
Another character that could have easily been a villain was Georgina but, outside of a few spiteful moments, she comes across as someone just trying to deal with a less than ideal situation in the best way she can. Julianne Moore’s performance keeps her from falling too far into the “wicked ex-wife” stereotype while also keeping her as a tense presence.The film has some pacing issues and characters tend to declare their motivations rather than having them revealed organically throughout the course of the story but generally speaking it all works out well enough despite some repetitive plot threads. There are some genuinely funny moments throughout and none of the characters are overly annoying. The best way to describe the whole experience is inoffensively diverting.
A solid film with reasonably well developed characters and an interesting angle on different family structures in the modern world. The lead characters are all well acted and despite some pacing problems the film manages to be entertaining while making valid points about different life choices.
- engaging performances from the lead actors
- well developed characters
- some amusing situations
- uneven pacing
- some repetitive plot elements