Monday, August 29, 2016

Movie Review: Maggie's Plan (2016)

Maggie's Plan (2016) - Directed by Rebecca Miller; Written by Miller and Karen Rinaldi; Starring Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke, Julianne Moore, Bill Hader, Maya Rudolph.

By Kenny Howell

Rebecca Miller does Woody Allen, down to the stilted exposition, academia and jazz score in Maggie's Plan.

As everyone knows, Allen (Blue Jasmine) makes a movie a year. Every third or fourth one is quite good, but in between there are usually half efforts that seem like they are made by a completely different filmmakers. His faults pop out like his characters over explaining everything, spelling out just exactly how they feel about whatever they are talking about.

Miller's Maggie's Plan feels exactly like one of those minor Allen works. Greta Gerwig (Mistress America) plays the titular Maggie, a professor that falls for another professor at her university, John, played by Ethan Hawke (Boyhood). She had planned to have a baby on her own through artificial insemination, but John starts to make her rethink that a bit. He is married to the tough to deal with Georgette (Julianne Moore), so Maggie reinvigorates him, gets him writing, and the two fall in love.

Flash forward a few years, Maggie and John are married with a child, and everything seems to be going great. But cracks start showing as John's struggle with his book alienates him from Maggie and the kids. She thinks that maybe John may be better off with Georgette, so she devises a plan.

The problem with the style, and what hurts Allen sometimes too, is he takes naturally gifted actors, and gives them wholly unnatural dialogue. Miller has Gerwig, Hawke, Bill Hader (Trainwreck) and Maya Rudolph (Inherent Vice) that are loaded with personality, but are forced to stop all that to give some dialogue that explains everything, even stuff that doesn't need to be. Moore is playing a character with a thick accent, so she is a bit of a pass. As the film settles in, and the actors are freer to do their thing, it gets a lot better.

However, academics in films is a hard to bit to pull off sometimes. They take themselves so seriously that if you don't take them just as serious, it's hard to get into their stories. It's kind of like a bad musical where the singers look so happy singing their terrible song, and if you aren't as happy as them, it's not going to work. That is how I feel about Maggie. She over analyzes everything about her life, much like the academic mind does, and I just don't care about her plight as much as she does. As things move along in the final act, I could really care less no matter how much Gerwig and Hawke try to save it.

Rating: **

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