Sony Pictures Classics
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten, Shockya
Grade: B
Director:  Rebecca Miller
Written by: Rebecca Miller, based on Karen Rinaldi’s unpublished novel
Cast: Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke, Julianne Moore, Bill Hader, Maya Rudolph, Travis Fimmel, Ida Rohatyn, Wallace Shawn
Screened at: Sony, NYC, 4/6/16
Opens: May 20, 2016

Rebecca Miller explores her inner Woody Allen with this goofy, fresh look at series of relationships that can happen only in New York.  And what better choice for a goofy star than the adorable Greta Gerwig, who is perhaps best known for her principal role in Noam Baumbach’s “Frances Ha,” about a New York woman who apprentices herself to a dance company despite not being a dancer but continues to follow her dreams while living a joyous life.

The film is based on an unpublished novel by Karen Rinaldi, a failure to publish serving as well to define one of the movie’s many self-absorbed characters.  “Maggie’s Plan” is quirkier than Woody Allen’s “Manhattan,” which is perhaps the reason we in the audience might feel that something undefinable is missing.  Credibility is that undefinable something, methinks.

The title character, played by Gerwig, is a woman with one of the movie’s strange jobs—an M.B.A. with an Art major serving as liaison between art history and setting up art buyers in the real world.  As she tells her pal Tony (Bill Hader), married to Felicia (Maya Rudolph), she has been unable to sustain a relationship for more than six months, as either she or her partner falls out of love within the time.  If you’ve been paying attention to romantic comedies, you can more or less predict what will happen.

She is ready for motherhood and asks Guy (Travis Fimmel), a bright friend from college days who is an ace mathematician and is now a successful pickle entrepreneur (which should allay any doubts you have about the story’s quirkiness), to fill a lab bottle with his semen, with which she will impregnate herself with a baster.  She turns down his offer to get her pregnant the old-fashioned way.  While wondering what her body temperature must be before doing the deed, she bumps into John (Ethan Hawke), an adjunct professor at The New College, and develops an attraction to this budding novelist who is married to an “icy” Danish professor, Georgette (Julianne Moore).  Splitting from the marriage and gaining partial custody to their two kids (Mina Sundwall and Jackson Frazer as Justine and Paul), he enters Maggie’s life. Soon they declare their love to each other, get married, and have a girl, Lily, now three (a Shirley-Temple-like Ida Rohatyn).  Seeing that her husband can’t get his nose out of the novel he’s writing, she opts to dump him and manipulate the scene to get him back together with his first wife.

Ethan Hawke plays a typical role for him, an expressive fellow who is too absorbed in his writing to pay much attention to other human beings, and what’s more he is letting Maggie provide for the two of them—not the best formula to retaining the warmth of original passion.  John’s scenes with Georgette are the more engaging than those occurring during the second marriage.  Director Miller has us believing that John and Georgette never should have fallen apart as they were made for each other, particularly in their rendezvous at a Quebec academic meeting cum skiing.  The pace is steady, one scene following the other under Sabine Hoffman’s editing while Sam Levy makes Manhattan look inviting, not the most difficult task in the world’s greatest island—especially his filming of the town houses that resemble those on an elegant Greenwich Village block.

Watch for the final fifteen seconds, the scene of a major twist!

Rated R.  92 minutes.  © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B-
Acting – B
Technical – B+
Overall – B


By Harvey Karten

Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *