Directed by Rebecca Miller, “Maggie’s Plan” is a quirky offbeat comedy set in New York City. The location and cast, Greta Gerwig in particular, bring a familiar Woody Allen feel and aesthetic to the screen. A romantic comedy with a stellar cast, this film follows the tangled events of parenthood and the many complications of love.
Miller wastes no time diving into plot. The first scene shows Maggie expressing anxiety over her ticking biological clock. She hatches a plan to artificially inseminate herself and decides to use the sperm of a fellow acquaintance and pickle entrepreneur, Guy (Travis Fimmel). She falls short when a married man, professor John Harding (Ethan Hawke), enters her life. John’s rocky marriage leads him to share his unfinished novel and vulnerabilities with Maggie and soon the two are indulging in an illicit affair. Fast-forwarding a couple years, Maggie and John are seen living together and raising a child. Maggie is unhappy with her relationship with John, a now struggling novelist, and guilt over breaking up his first marriage gnaws at her. We then meet Georgette (Julianne Moore), John’s now ex-wife, and watch as Maggie orchestrates a plan to get the couple back together. Sure enough Maggie’s plan leaves her juggling the emotions of herself and others.
Falling in love on the cusp of a life changing decision is a loaded topic, however the film shifts away from these complexities to favour those in the second half: divorce, jealousy and manipulation. In this way, the sight of Maggie’s initial plan, the stakes of parenthood, is lost. While the many twists and turns in the storyline are entertaining, the events take up a lot of the film’s content which mean less time for character development. In particular, given more time, John and Maggie’s romance could have become fiercer; this also would have increased the stakes for the second part of the movie when the ‘three years later’ relationship shift occurs. It seems that the film’s running time didn’t allow for the intricacies of a love triangle and the responsibility/consequences of motherhood to come to light.
In terms of characters, the introduction of best friends, Maggie (Greta Gerwig) and Tony (Bill Hader) was refreshing. Portraying a strong plutonic relationship meant their scenes strayed far away from any romantic tension. In turn, scenes with supporting characters, Tony and Felicia (Maya Rudolph), were what I enjoyed the most. The couple’s obvious chemistry lead to flawless comedic scenes filled with playful and sarcastic humour. Fimmel’s short stint in this film also brought a special kind of awkwardness to the movie while Gerwig charmed the screen with her own offbeat quirks.
Overall, this was a fun film to watch. It was beautiful aesthetically and all the recognizable actors on screen left me vying to learn more about each and every one of them. Perhaps with a longer running time it could have been the perfect film, but I suppose like Maggie’s plan, things don’t always work out exactly the way you’d hoped.