Please note: This is a repost of my review from the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.
Greta Gerwig has a long filmography, but for the past few years, she’s mostly appeared in Noah Baumbach’s films like “Francis Ha” and most recently, “Mistress America.” This time around, Gerwig shines in a non-Baumbach film and plays Maggie, a woman with a plan to have a baby sans a man (at least in the traditional sense) via artificial insemination. And since she’s never had a long-term relationship longer than six months, this works out for her. That is, until she meets John (Ethan Hawke), an adjunct professor of anthropology who’s writing a fiction book.
That’s how their relationship begins, with Maggie editing his book, chapter by chapter. They grow closer, but John is always complaining about his wife, Georgette (Julianne Moore), a tenured professor at Columbia University and mother to his two children. The night that Maggie decides to take the plunge and become a single mother, John comes knocking and changes her plans completely. The baby part stays, however, as the two conceive a daughter, but almost three years into her marriage to John, Maggie has to reevaluate her controlling need to plan everything.
Greta Gerwig is as charming as ever and the more interesting dynamic comes in the midst of the shift of Ethan Hawke’s character from one marriage to another. It’s intriguing that he looks like the victim in his marriage to Georgette because we hear his side as he complains to Maggie, but as soon as he’s with Maggie, she finds that perhaps Georgette wasn’t given enough credit and that John isn’t as victim-less as he seems.
The entire film borderlines ridiculous, especially near the end. There are plots and schemes going on, which makes the film come off as charming, however, it can become a little over-the-top. Although Rebecca Miller’s script will make you laugh out loud quite a few times and “Maggie’s Plan” will never stray from being entertaining.
Julianne Moore, among the principal cast, is perhaps the funniest character, albeit unintentionally. Her Dutch accent alone, along with her stern expression and the manner in which she speaks, is enough to have you chuckling whenever she opens her mouth to speak. Greta Gerwig’s character is likable, and Ethan Hawke isn’t always likable, but isn’t completely obnoxious either. Bill Hader and Maya Rudolph are strong in their supporting roles.
“Maggie’s Plan” isn’t quite a romantic comedy simply because it tries to flip the elements around and doesn’t focus too much on the “love” aspect of it all. It works as a screwball comedy if you’re willing to embrace its strange but strong charm, as well as its ridiculous scheming later on in the movie.