A wise, witty exploration of the lengths we go to when trying to fill life’s seemingly empty spaces, the latest from gifted American writer-director Rebecca Miller (The Private Lives of Pippa Lee) features sparkling performances from Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke, and Julianne Moore.
Maggie (Gerwig, Frances Ha) wants a baby, but she has never sustained a relationship longer than six months. She solicits a sperm donation from a Brooklyn pickle entrepreneur—no strings attached—but has hardly even begun the artificial-insemination process when she consummates a budding romance with John (Hawke, Born to be Blue, Boyhood), an unhappily married academic hailed as “the bad boy of fictocritical anthropology.”
Maggie’s rejuvenating enthusiasm lures John away from his wife, domineering Danish critical theorist Georgette Norgaard (Moore, Still Alice, The Kids Are All Right), and the two settle down and have a daughter together. Everything has gone according to Maggie’s plan—so why is she not happy? And what sort of meddlesome scheme will she concoct next?
Based on an original story by Karen Rinaldi, Maggie’s Plan is both an affectionate send-up of highbrow academic culture and a treatise on modern self-realization. Miller exhibits her characteristic sensitivity to female experience, but with a playfulness given freer rein than ever before in her work.
Her cast, which also includes Maya Rudolph and Bill Hader (The Skeleton Twins, Her), delivers uniformly inspired work—and Miller makes especially ingenious use of Moore’s talents. Georgette Norgaard recalls Maude Lebowski in her exotic eccentricity, yet over the course of Maggie’s Plan Moore takes what initially seems like an offbeat supporting role and infuses it with real soul.
“Maggie’s Plan is an ensemble piece, with Maya Rudolph, Travis Fimmel, and a magic, romantic New York rounding out the cast. They’re all great, but it’s Gerwig who’s just so damn gosh-wow.” (Kimberley Jones, Austin Chronicle)
“Ms. Miller’s choices are hard to argue with. She steers gracefully through a zigzagging plot, slowing down for quiet, contemplative stretches and pausing for jokes that are irrelevant but irresistible. She finds a tricky balance of farce, satire and emotional sincerity, a way of treating people as ridiculous without denying them empathy.” (A.O. Scott, The New York Times)