I’ve decided to embrace the mystery of the universe.
I was super excited about Maggie’s Plan. It’s a movie where Greta Gerwig falls in love (and then out of love [spoilers from the trailer]) with Ethan Hawke and decides to try to get him back with his ex-wife, played by a bizarrely accented Julianne Moore. Maya Rudolph and Bill Hader are a couple of Gerwig’s friends. I mean, I don’t know how I could not love this movie. Except I do. And that’s by watching it. Because it is not very good. I’m a huge fan of Gerwig and she gets to show off her comedic chops here and to inhabit, as she often does, a deeply unlikable character that is still somehow compelling, perhaps because of the steadfast ability of her characters to believe themselves to be irrepressibly charming. The cast does solid work and there are some laughs. But the movie is off balance in some serious ways. The most believable relationship is the one between Hawke & Moore; they have a perfect rhythm together and they make you believe that these people simultaneously feel affection for each other, need each other and can’t stand being around each other. Gerwig is funny in a bubble, but her character never feels connected to any of the others, at least not in the way that Hawke and Moore feel connected. Hawke is very good, playing a particularly insufferable version of himself (“Do you want to hear what’s in your horoscope?” *two beats* “No.”). But the script just never really comes together into either the bittersweet exploration of the modern relationship with all its complications or the wacky screwball scheme. The movie kind of wants to be both, but pulls off neither. It’s a film that feels very long, though it isn’t. Some scenes drag, making points the film has already made, and the structure of the film is occasionally disorienting. At one point, there’s a quick cut from one scene into another and between those two scenes, though it took me an insanely long time to figure out what the hell was happening, I eventually realized a period of more than a year had passed. I don’t know why we couldn’t have a little on-screen text so I wouldn’t think I was in a dream sequence for ten minutes. Anyway, I was super disappointed with this film; the script and tone are muddled in a way that seems very “indie,” but not in the agreeable or entertaining way of a really good indie. There’s certainly no shortage of tone juggling in Gerwig’s films with Noah Baumbach, but those work in a way this one just doesn’t and Gerwig’s characters feel absolutely real and in the world in those films as she doesn’t in this one. I didn’t see this coming, but here it is. 2 stars.
tl;dr – labored script, inconsistent tone and troubling technical issues weigh this film down like anchors; the game cast, especially Gerwig, gets some laughs, but they deserved better. 2 stars.