“Maggie’s Plan” is full of lightweight comic touches to delight and tickle you. As smart, witty, and charming as you can expect from your average sassy New Yorker comedy movie, it serves us with a number of hilarious moments to savor and appreciate, and we cannot help but chuckle while its funny, colorful New Yorker characters bounce around each other in their amusingly complicated circumstance.
When we meet Maggie (Greta Gerwig) at the beginning of the movie, she has a simple and straightforward plan for her life. While she does not want marriage, she wants to have a baby, so she needs a guy who will donate the sperms for her pregnancy, and she has a suitable man for that. Although he may look shaggy and dopey on the surface, Guy (Travis Fimmel), one of her college acquaintances, is a smart entrepreneur currently running his small artisanal pickle business, and this nice dude even has no qualms about giving up any rights he may have as the biological father of her future child.
But then there comes an unexpected happening. When she is dealing with an error involved with her salary check at a New York college where she works as one of its administration department employees, she comes across John (Ethan Hawke), an anthropologist who teaches ‘ficto-critical anthropology’ at the college (Please don’t ask me what the heck it is). As they get friendly with each other after their accidental encounter, John shows her the excerpt of a novel he has been writing, and that makes him look more attractive to Maggie.
However, there is one problem. John is married to Georgette (Julianne Moore with), a Danish woman who is a tenured professor of Columbia University and is also rumored to be an icy lady dominating over her husband. That rumor seems to be true when we see John’s domestic life with his wife and their two children; he wants to complete his novel someday, but helping and supporting his busy wife always comes first, and he is not so happy about that. In the end, he announces to Maggie that he is really in love with her, when she happens to be in a hilariously awkward circumstance you have to see for yourself.
As a consequence, Maggie’s life is totally changed three years later. She married John right after his divorce, and she and he came to have a little cute daughter between them, but she is not exactly happy. Her husband is now fully occupied with writing his novel as he always wanted, but he has been going nowhere with his novel which has been only increased in volume, and he also turns out to be as selfish as his ex-wife. That means Maggie has to take care of everything for him just like he did that for his ex-wife, and she accordingly becomes more tired and frustrated day by day.
Meanwhile, Maggie comes to see that Georgette is actually a pretty cool woman to talk with. Although she recently publishes a novel inspired by her break-up with John as she openly admits in front of others, Georgette turns out to have no hard feeling against Maggie now, so Maggie suggests to her a rather outrageous idea when they have a private meeting at Georgette’s posh apartment. She wants to have John go back to Georgette, and she absolutely needs Georgette’s help for manipulating John’s heart.
Georgette disapproves it at first, but then she comes to have second thoughts mainly because she still loves her ex-husband, so she and Maggie quickly embark on setting a right circumstance to rekindle John’s remaining feelings toward Georgette. Fortunately, there is an upcoming conference supervised by Georgette, and she surely knows what can irresistibly attract her husband’s academic attention – and all Maggie should do is indulging his selfish side a little more than usual.
Georgette and John consequently spend some time together at the conference, but, of course, Maggie’s plan does not go as well as she wants, and the director Rebecca Miller and her main cast members bring more laughs for us. Indubitably well-cast as a likable but self-absorbed intellectual, Ethan Hawke wisely plays his character straight on the screen, and that is why it is a fun to watch his character being unwittingly manipulated by Maggie and Georgette. Equipped with a foreign accent as required, Julianne Moore definitely has a fun with playing her seemingly silly but surprisingly lovable character, and I certainly enjoyed the scene in which Georgette gives her ex-husband a very productive advice on his work in progress.
In case of Greta Gerwig, she is simply warm, charming right from the first scene of the movie. When I recently happened to watch Noah Baumbach’s “Frances Ha” (2012), I could not help but be charmed by her delightfully spirited performance, and I observed the same amiable spirit from her performance in “Maggie’s Plan”. We may laugh as things do not go right for Maggie, but, thanks to Gerwig’s performance, we come to root for her a lot as she comes to learn a little life lesson not so far from the one learned by the heroine of Jane Austen’s “Emma”.
“Maggie’s Plan” is funny enough to recommend, and I was entertained by its performances as well as its small details. Like any good New Yorker movies, it is filled with the authentic sense of people and locations, and I also like the supporting performances by Bill Hader and Maya Rudolph, who deftly bring extra humor to the movie as a couple close to Maggie. The ending may be a little too neat, but it is delivered with precision and inevitability, and I must admit that I found myself smiling during its last shot. That was not her plan, but it works for everyone anyway, right?