In my review of “Radio Dreams”, I mentioned that at the moment, I’m just not into movies that are too ponderous and/or demanding. Thus, “Maggie’s Plan” proved to be a perfect choice (thanks for the tip, Kalafudra!), since it was funny, entertaining and light – but at the same time proving that those attributes don’t automatically mean that a movie also has to be shallow, trite and run-of-the-mill.
The first 20-30 minutes are already quite entertaining, but for me, the movie really took off once we jumped ahead three years. That’s also when Maggie’s titular plan is conceived and set in motion, and I have to say, I don’t recall seeing a similar plot in a romantic comedy and/or drama before (then again, I don’t claim to have seen all of them). Anyway, I really liked the concept, and also the very down-to-earth and sober approach that the movie (mostly) followed when it comes to affairs, divorce, and the slow dissolve of a relationship. I mean, there are already tons of movies out there with a lot of drama, which is perfect when you want to cry your eyes out (special recommendation: “Blue Valentine”). And of course, breakups like that are never easy, and thus, that approach also is more than valid. But it was nice to see it handled differently here. I also liked all of the characters, especially because none of them is perfect. Maggie is a schemer (one might even go so far as to call her a manipulative bitch, even though she usually acts only with best intentions), John a selfish immature man-child, and Georgette seems – at least at first – self-absorbed and emotionally distant. However, since they also have their good sides, and none of us is perfect either, this just made them more endearing (and true-to-life) for me. This is especially true for Maggie, who is an admirably strong, independent, determined and quite practical woman. But ultimately, all of them had their redeeming qualities (ok, maybe with the exception of John, who really seemed like a self-centered, immature prick who doesn’t know what he wants… but then again, I might see more of myself in him than I’d care to admit).
The script is great; not just the story, but also the dialogue. There were plenty of funny lines, some of which had me laugh out loud, and there were a couple of jokes that I’ll (hopefully) remember for quite a while. The cast is great too, even though with these performers, I didn’t really expect anything else. Ethan Hawke is in his “Linklater”-mode here (and yes, that’s a compliment), the ever-reliable Julianne Moore (I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bad performance from her) is great as always (even though her accent was a little distracting at first), and Greta Gerwig continues to be one of the most interesting young actresses that Hollywood has to offer right now. I usually don’t watch movies just because a certain actor or actress appears in them, but with Gerwig, I’m getting close. It was not just the main cast, though. Bill Hader gave another great, subdued performance here, as did Maya Rudolph. There also was something adorable about Travis Fimmel’s Guy, and I again was amazed how great and natural child performances usually are nowadays. Is it perfect? Not quite. There’s the occasional trope that snuck in, like the one where someone hides a big secret from the other person, which then of course has to come out and lead to some sort of big falling out, which is rather worn out by now. Granted, it arguably was unavoidable in this case, but especially in a movie that otherwise feels quite fresh, original and out of the ordinary, such tropes stick out like a sore thumb. As important as it might have been to set up the story, the first third, which is set before the time jump, isn’t quite on par with the rest of the movie. And the ending (first the on-the-nose scene concerning her daughter, and then the coincidental appearance of a certain character) felt a little forced. Apart from that, however, “Maggie’s Plan” was absolutely delightful.