Actress Greta Gerwig has become known for playing scattered characters somewhat adrift in their lives, so casting her as a woman with her shit together enough to voluntarily enter into single motherhood almost goes against type. Director Rebecca Miller’s Maggie’s Plan is initially about Gerwig’s character, a college professor, arranging artificial insemination so that she may conquer another of life’s goals, partner or no partner. Obviously, if everything were to just go according to plan, that wouldn’t make for much of a movie.
The wrench in Maggie’s plan comes in the form of John (Ethan Hawke), a new part-timer at the school who is known as “the bad boy of fictocritical anthropology.” John is married to an even more accomplished scholar (Julianne Moore), who doesn’t have much time or interest in his attempts at completing his first novel. But when Maggie takes an interest, their intellectual affair quickly grows into much more.
While it may not sound like it from the story, Maggie’s Plan is primarily a comedy in the vein of Woody Allen’s satires of New York intellectuals and their often crisscrossing love lives. Every cast member brings something to the table. Gerwig proves that she doesn’t have to be awkward or clumsy to be likeable, Hawke is perfectly cast as the boyishly naive academic, and Julianne Moore hasn’t been this funny since The Big Lebowski. Bill Hader and Maya Rudolph also lend their comedic talents as the consistently bickering yet stable married friends.
With several jumps in time and changes in the characters’ situations, Maggie’s Plan feels a little like all three films of Richard Linklater’s “Before Trilogy” smushed into one movie, with Hawke once again playing the hopeless romantic writer. Unlike Before Midnight, Maggie’s Plan wraps everything up tidier than one would expect. A little too tidy, making it almost feel like Maggie’s Fantasy.
With its hip cast, accessible story, and proper balance of comedy and drama, Miller has made a modest film that will have no problem finding its audience.
SEP 20 3:00 PM @ Ryerson