Thursday, June 23, 2016

Maggie's Plan (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

“Maggie’s Plan” Goes Comically Awry
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

 Everybody is calling “Maggie’s Plan” a Woody Allen wannabe.

Sure, it’s about a neurotic New York woman who encounters a number of comic mishaps with intellectual overtones. But, in fact, it’s a belabored labor of love by director-writer Rebecca Miller. Not need to bring Woody Allen into this. She has the creative genes, being the daughter of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Arthur Miller.

Rebecca Miller’s last film was a 2009 comedy called “The Secret Lives of Pippa Lee.” I remember interviewing her via Skype, she chatting nervously, with her husband Daniel Day-Lewis sitting just out of camera range. She seemed very serious about being funny.

“Maggie’s Plan” is a screwball comedy, one of those female-dominant farces with fast-paced dialogue and plenty of plot twists where everything seems to go wrong in a funny way.

Here, Maggie (Greta Gerwig) is a control freak who wants a child but can’t find the man of her dreams, so she beseeches an old school chum (Travis Fimmel), a math genius who is now a -- wait for it! -- pickle maker, to provide her with the sperm. However, things go awry when she falls for a brainy college professor (Ethan Hawke), who happens to be married to an even brainer wife (Julianne Moore, using a silly Danish accent).

The message is, be careful what you wish for. Three years later, she’s married to the deadbeat prof and saddled with both her and his children.

Thus comes the story’s biggest plot twist, when Maggie decides her hubby is not Mr. Right and she must formulate a new plan to reunite him with his ex-wife.

Ms. Miller strains a bit to be funny line-after-line. And Greta Gerwig is essentially repeating all those roles -- the ineffectual woman confused by relationships -- that won her the title of “indie darling.” Julianne Moore surprises us by turning a daft part into a screen-stealing performance.

“Maggie’s Plan” is playing at Tropic Cinema.

Rebecca Miller’s New York-centric film may not be as good as a good Woody Allen. But -- wannabe or not -- it’s much better than a bad Woody Allen.

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