Greta Gerwig can sell, really, any movie in my opinion. She has a sophisticated hipster charm, she’s gorgeous and she brings a leading lady quality that is unlike any other. She is pure dynamite on the screen and makes all of her dialogue work in a way that doesn’t come as naturally to others. She also happens to be the lucky rabbit’s foot for any indie director. She made prominent appearances in films by new directors like Ti West, the Duplass brothers, Joe Swanberg numerous times and even Ivan Reitman among many others but it really hit a masterful crescendo with writer and director Noah Baumbach. Greenberg, then Frances Ha, and Mistress America, both co-written by Gerwig, she cemented herself as one of my absolute favorites and someone I’m always looking for what they’re doing next. Soon she’ll be seen in controversial auteur Todd Solondz’s sequel to Welcome To The Dollhouse, Weiner-Dog but first up was Maggie’s Plan.
Writer and director Rebecca Miller comes from really great stock. Her father is Arthur Miller, the mind behind plays like Death of a Salesman, The Crucible and many more over his storied career and Rebecca has had a career herself with Personal Velocity and Proof, with my personal favorite of her work being The Ballad of Jack and Rose, putting her husband Daniel Day Lewis in the lead. While Miller has always had a nice, eclectic group of actors in her films, Maggie’s Plan has a line-up that was too good to pass up with Gerwig leading as the titular character along with Ethan Hawke, Julianne Moore, Bill Hader and Maya Rudolph. I would honestly watch any movie with that cast.
Maggie’s Plan follows a New York woman named Maggie who is young, independent and looking to move on to the next part of her life plans, becoming a mother. Working as a sort of post college and university life planner, Maggie is a person that is usually in full control of what she wants to do with herself and, without a significant other in her life, decided that insemination is her conception avenue. She chooses a former college friend Guy (Viking’s Travis Fimmel), a pickle entrepreneur, to be the father of her child, although his involvement is unwanted. Plans completely change when John (Ethan Hawke) enters her life.
John is a “ficto-critical anthropologist” that Maggie meets during a paycheque miscue at the college they are both employed at. After a few public meetings, the two start to have regular get togethers with Maggie giving John some feedback on the novel he’s trying to write. The book is loosely based on John’s own life and his struggles with his very needy wife, Georgette (Julianne Moore), a Columbia professor and writer in constant need of validation. Things get further complicated when both Maggie and John address the elephant in the room that can no longer be denied. They have fallen in love with each other. The two have a child together, but it starts to dawn on Maggie that for the first time, everything isn’t quite what she had planned out and she might need to back pedal.
Maggie’s Plan is a phenomenally written film with dialogue that hits on a level that is very refreshingly highbrow. There are no easy jokes in this one and the actors work hard to make the moments authentic under the great direction from Rebecca Miller. Maggie’s Plan strikes me as a Baumbach-style bohemian New Yorker film with some Woody Allen style relationship follies and social interactions coupled with it. I’ve seen the movie addressed as a screwball comedy but I’d say with the smart range of it and the uncomfortableness of some of the situations I can coin it as an intellectual cringe-ball comedy. Not everything will ring true, with the duplicity exhibited at times but, damn, the dialogue is so spot on.
The cast gathered in this film excel at all times they’re on the screen. I’ve talked incessantly about Gerwig, so I’ll leave that praise where it is, but Ethan Hawke is continuing to show how versatile of an actor he is, hopefully silencing a lot of the critiques that plagued him for years. Playing his scenes with Greta Gerwig or Academy Award winner Julianne Moore, it’s evident that everyone in the scene is playing so well off each other, Moore delivering with her great accent. Then, when the film shifts to Maggie’s friends, played by Maya Rudolph and Bill Hader, the levity there is so light and fluffy that it really plays great for the audience.
Movies like Maggie’s Plan make you strive for other films in the romantic or straight forward comedy genre to show the same sort of character assured writing and confidence in their players. The film succeeds by not having a dastardly character that you aren’t supposed to like at all. Everyone, even through their boneheaded mistakes or maliciously spoken thoughts, is still respectable enough as a human for it to sit well with you. The real takeaway for me is the continued success of Greta Gerwig as she continues to rise in her career. Maggie’s Plan is a total crowd pleaser and earns a four out of five.