Maggie’s Plan

A film well worth planning to see

You have a choice this weekend. You could see cold and divisive Neon Demon (click here for my review) or you could see this proper gem of a movie. It’s so warm and smart, meandering about with utterly superb dialogue. It’s immensely well observed and occasionally practically profound – just how much can we plan and how much do we leave to the hands of destiny?

Maggie (Greta Gerwig) wants a baby. Needs one even. Except she hasn’t got a partner so she’s going to go it alone and use a sperm donor. A friend from college, Guy (Travis Fimmel), is more than happy to help. Best friend Tony (Bill Hader) and his wife Felicia (Maya Rudolph) think she should wait a bit longer, just in case she meets someone. She does, and her plan is interupted by a meet-cute with married John (Ethan Hawke). An affair follows and he leaves his wife, Georgette (Julianne Moore), for Maggie. Three years later and Maggie has the child she was desperate for, but she’s starting to have serious doubts about her relationship with John. Maybe she can give him back to his first wife..?

Several reviews are referring to this film as a screwball comedy. Personally I think the pace is slightly too slow to categorise it as screwball – not a criticism as I love the pace but screwball comedies are noted for their break-neck speed of story and delivery. However, this has many other elements of screwball. Think Woody Allen meets Jane Austen in terms of the characters and their dialogue.Greta Gerwig provides another knitwear-atired delight (I really wish I was friends with her!) who is utterly sympathetic in a role that could easily not be. Maggie is simillar to Emma (title character of Austen’s 1815 novel) as she is a matchmaker who loves to be in control, who is unable to let other forces control hers or others lives.

Hawke is fantastic as John, both glorifying and sending up the figure of intellectual. He also delivers what will most likely be my favourite line of 2016 cinema – “Like is a language condom.” It’s obvious that he is having the time of his life playing this character, which hugely pays off as it’s delightful to watch. The interactions he has with Maggie both convert then subvert the expectations of the romantic comedy, resulting in the film being both old-fashioned yet astutely modern.

The scenes when Gerwig and Moore share screen time are truly electric. All too rarely do we get such well-rounded female figures on the screen at the same time, they bounce off each other and the result is electric. What’s fantastic is how layered Moore’s character is. It would have been all too easy to have her as a woman scorned, who pushed her incredible man away with the glacial and disinterested temperament. We quickly learn there is more to her character than her ex-husband revealed, and that John is far from a perfect husband.

A quick note has to be made of just how fantastic the supporting cast are. Bill Hader, yet again, is superb (I want to be his friend too!), Maya Rudolph has little screen time but contributes massively, Travis Fimmel is really likeable as Guy (far more interesting here than he was in Warcraft) and Wallace Shawn has a lovely little cameo.

It’s funny and quirky, may not be for everyone, but for many it will be a winning comedy-drama. An utter delight to watch!

4.5

Advertisements

Me Before You

A serviceable and relatively sincere weepie

Let’s start this with an admission. I am a crier. I have cried and will cry at everything and anything. An article on human kindness – I weep. An audition on a relatively television program – I sob. A particularly emotive song – I howl. Considering the nature of this film and what I had heard of the book I had the tissues at the ready. Literally I had taken a tissue out of the packet and tucked it into a jumper sleeve for easy access. Come the roll of the credits and the tissue had remained unused. I didn’t cry. This is not necessarily a criticism of the film – there were plenty of noses being blown and gentle sobbing echoed around the screen. Yet not a peep from me. Whether that is because I’m all cried out from recent weeks or whether the film didn’t have the emotional depth needed? Well, read on and see…

Two years ago William Traynor (Sam Claflin) was hit by a motorbike – leaving him paralysed from the neck-down. Will was once a man about town, living and hustling in London. The type of man all men envied and all women wanted. Now he is stuck back in his small-town home with his parents Camilla (Janet McTeer) and Steven (Charles Dance). Concerned by his desperately low spirits she decides to hire a carer/companion who can brighten up his lonely   existence.  Enter Louisa Clark (Emilia Clarke) who has just lost her job at the local cafe. Aged 26 she has never left her small town home, a place which she either loves too much or is too scared to leave. Her family rely on her as she brings in the only income so this job is perfect for her! Except she has zero experience as a carer. Having always been outshone by her younger sister, single mother Katrina (Jenna Coleman), or patronised by her long-term boyfriend Patrick (Matthew Lewis), Louisa is a woman not living life to its fullest. Maybe Will, a man who can no longer enjoy life, is the perfect person to help her live hers?

Having not read the book I cannot comment on the success of the transition of book to screen, although Twitter would suggest it is faithful. The story itself is relatively predictable, with little surprise, though this is not necessarily a bad thing as the story itself is told rather well. The pacing is solid with the growing bond between Louisa and Will is believable.The supporting cast are impeccably stereotypical and two-dimensional. Roll call for romantic tragedy archetypes – we have present: jealous and moody boyfriend who ‘doesn’t understand or appreciate’ how amazing his girlfriend is. Overly concerned mother and withdrawn father. Know-it-all younger sibling full of great advice. Friendly Australian nurse who steals most of the scenes he is in… (Side note: how can I get my own Nathan, Stephen Peacocke..?) 

The main cast themselves are solid. Claflin does well with his role as a man who feels he has little reason to live. He provides his character with just enough spark to hint at the man Will once was. His bond with Clarke’s character is well-established and there is plenty of charisma between them. It’s Clarke’s performance that particularly stands out, with her facial expressions providing an earnest authenticity to her character. Although her character is essentially a 2016 small-town England Manic Pixie Dream Girl (her ‘quirky’ clothes and shoes used to denote her character as opposed to providing her with any genuine character traits) she is remarkably likeable. Her eyebrow acting is, as my secondary school students would say, on point – managing to show so much with them knitted in concern.

There’s enough here to watch and enjoy with a glass of wine. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel but if you’re a fan of such films as  The Fault In Our Stars or Me, Earl and the Dying Girl then you’ll enjoy this.

stars