Maggie (Greta Gerwig) has a plan for her life and it includes being a mother. The fact that she’s never been able to keep a serious relationship going for more than six months is not a problem, merely a detail to be managed. She enlists the sperm of the hapless Guy (Travis Fimmel) to provide the second half of her child’s genome and sets the insemination date. Her plan hits a blip however, when she meets the married John (Ethan Hawke) in a cheque mix up at work. John harbours dreams of being a novelist and captures the heart of Maggie, turning Maggie’s already messy plans for the future into a full-blown kerfuffle.
Maggie’s Plan is whip smart, even with it’s meet-cute, rom-com setup that is enough to make even the most hardened of us cringe just a little bit or at least roll our eyes. It might be a bit too smart for its own good, but in a genre that usually plays to the lowest common denominator, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a piece of intellectual fluff, poking fun at the world of academia and chock full of nerdy references for the (very) well read. But don’t worry if you’ve never heard of fictocritical anthropology (yes, that is a real thing), a stellar cast manages to keep even some of the more obtuse wordplay light and frothy and keep the film from descending into pretentious drivel.
It really is the cast and the characters that makes Maggie’s Plan such a delight. We are given messy, intelligent, quirky women who live for themselves and pursue their own hopes and dreams. Gerwig’s Maggie desperately wants to help everyone, nurture them and guide them and in the process manages to be an insufferable control freak. In Gerwig’s hands however, Maggie is someone you can’t help but root for, even when she’s stuck her nose so far into where it doesn’t belong, she deserves to have it bitten off.
And then there is Julianne Moore’s Georgette, the “frigid” wife of John. She says she refuses to play the role of the scorned wife, and she never does. She is a respected academic, and the film gives her her due. It also allows her to descend into complete childishness without ever demeaning her. Gerwig might be the star of the film, but it’s Moore who steals the show. She continues to be, for my money, the best actress currently working in film able to tackle heavy drama as well as the over the top Georgette in equal measure.
Both are women we don’t usually get to see on screen: highly intelligent, with full, messy lives. As a result, our leading man ends up being reduced to the role we usually see women in–hugely needy, desperate to be loved, supported by the women in his life–but that’s also not necessarily a bad thing. Hawke manages to squeeze just enough out of the slightly underwritten John to make him somewhat sympathetic, even if he’s mostly just annoying.
And that is the sum of Maggie’s Plan. The women jump the hurdles, weather the storm and figure it out. They are in the driver’s seat, the men are just along for the ride which is a refreshing change.
Maggie’s Plan had its world premiere as part of the Special Presentations at TIFF 2015. It screens again on Sunday, September 20th at 3:00pm at Ryerson.
For more TIFF coverage from the Cinefilles, please click here.