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Maggie’s Plan is centred on artificial insemination, affairs of the heart and bizarre parenting techniques that are wrapped up in a romantic comedy.
Maggie (Greta Gerwig) likes control over all aspects of her life and she has a specific plan for her future. She has decided that she wants a baby, but does not want the responsibility of a husband. She has convinced herself that she is unable to maintain a loving relationship with a man, but feels that should not get in the way of her having a child. Her plan is to artificially inseminate herself with the biological assistance of Guy (Travis Fimmel), but things do not go to her plan. She could not have guessed that she would fall in love with the brilliant, but married John (Ethan Hawke). What begins as an affair of the heart and mind progresses into a physical relationship that leads to the eventual birth of a daughter, Lilly, and the breakdown of John’s marriage. Fast-forwading three years, Maggie and John have married one another and they are enjoying all that Lilly brings into their lives, but not one another. They see that the romance has left their relationship and Maggie realises that she has become the slave to John’s bad habits. In another attempt to control the next chapter of her life, she devises a new plan with the help of friends for a life without her husband in it. Her scheme is to get John and his former wife, Georgette (Julianne Moore), back together. The challenge is getting everyone to go along with the new plan. What could possibly go wrong?
What will be a surprise to many is that this convoluted premise is the set-up for a romantic comedy, but not in the traditional sense. The writing and the performances have replaced the tradition of physical humour of typical rom-com fare with dry wit and well-timed dialogue. Director Rebecca Miller‘s (The Private Lives of Pippa Lee) writing and filming technique place this quirky love story as something better described as a melancholy, New York fairy tale that is reminiscent of a Woody Allen film. Her casting for the primary characters is quintessential independent film choices with Gerwig and Hawke, which telegraphed that this will not be standard rom-com fodder. Over the years, they have been a mainstay in the realm of independent cinema. Miller proves to have a strong skills in drawing talent and surrounds her lead actors with the stellar support from Julianne Moore (Still Alice), Maya Rudolph (The Way, Way Back), and Bill Hader (Trainwreck). Hidden within the mix of this exceptional troupe is the welcomed surprise of Travis Fimmel (Vikings), who steals each scene that he is allowed on screen. With this stellar cast and clever writing, the up and coming director seems to have the elements for a high quality production, but two elements move this film from uniquely engaging to standard arthouse outing.
The key components that undermine Miller’s objective for a thought-provoking comedy are found in the lack of chemistry between the leads and the difficulty to find the logic in the story. The spark between Hawke and Gerwig never seems to catch on fire. This could be blamed on the director’s style or on the actors’ performances, but regardless of where the blame falls, the spark never quite materialises. This is a minor issue compared to the absence of logic in the storyline, understanding that romantic comedies are not always meant to be logical. Miller’s attempt to make this an intellectual tale of serendipity turns into a muddled journey of confusion. This leaves this rom-com with little romance or comedy. These issues do not completely keep Maggie’s Plan from being an appealing film, but it does leave this potential modern day fairy tale with very little magic to be considered a romance worth remembering.