Director: Rebecca Miller
Starring: Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke, Julianne Moore
The love triangle has been clear in film making since the beginning. From the classic Casablanca to the modern teen saga Twilight, we see three people being pulled around by emotions and physical interactions.
In many pictures though, the love triangle can often seem stale. This is where Maggie’s Plan comes in, and twists, pulls, rotates and destroys that love triangle in an intriguing, whimsical way.
On a personal note, when it comes to romantic movies I label The Before Trilogy, The Graduate and When Harry Met Sally as my all time favourites (500 Days of Summer just getting pipped). Each in their own right display romance in fresh ways, whilst keeping the audience intrigued about their relationship, and ultimately care for them.
I won’t put Maggie’s Plan along these in a “rating” sense, but in terms of approaching romance in a new inventive way that is both believable and entertaining it is in there with them. In Maggie’s Plan we follow Maggie (Greta Gerwig) who falls in love with a married man (Ethan Hawke), and after several years and some kids she hatches a plan to get him and his ex-wife (played by the forever loving Julianne Moore) back together again.
We are first introduced to Maggie, who instantly gives off the vibe of a serious, yet bumbling 30-something trying to make her way in this world. We learn she longs for a baby, through a donor no less, a big hint that this is a noncommittal woman who knows what she wants in life and will fight to have it.
In come John and Georgette (Hawke & Moore), a dysfunctional couple who’s relationship with their kids and each other is visibly crashing down beneath them, you instantly know that the love is gone and their own work has taken over themselves.
What follow are a series of events where we are first thrust upon us the typical love triangle: Maggie and John sleep together, and we are instantly a few years down the road with Maggie and her child. This fast-forward really works as we don’t have to deal with the immediate domestic shit that will have happened, and this helps develop the story as it moves forward.
This is where the love triangle gets more interesting. The 3 sides turn into 2, with Georgette removed from the picture. We follow Maggie and John as their relationship begins to get tested, mirroring the previous failed marriage. This is suddenly returned to 3 sides once Maggie begins her plan, to actively get John and Georgette together. The witty, whimsical style of writing here by Miller makes these series of events fell like something out of a Noah Baumbach picture and, ultimately, believable (Baumbach coincidentally has worked with Gerwig and has helped develop her into one of my favourite actresses working today). We are treated to three well written characters being pulled around by a love triangle that just doesn’t want to stay that shape, and it is because of this storytelling that I was kept intrigued, entertained and amused throughout the entirety.
Another reason here is the superb lead performance by Greta Gerwig, who’s notable lead performances in Frances Ha and Mistress America has pushed her high on the podium of female leads. She plays her character so effortlessly, and strikes a great relationship with Ethan Hawke’s character with ease.
There are a couple of occasions where I feel Miller took notes from Richard Linklater’s aforementioned Before Trilogy to strike up chemistry between Maggie and John (disregarding the fact that Hawke is in this movie also). one scene in particular they meet by a bench and are simply walking and talking, with the camera moving backwards as we simply look on these two characters building up a friendship. The dialogue is brilliant and It correlates with the Before Trilogy.
Overall I was very invested with the story and characters in Maggie’s Plan. The writing here is excellent and the acting throughout by the 3 leads is fantastic. This is a romantic film that does more than simply tug at the heartstrings, it is compelling story writing that from start to finish doesn’t want a single character to fail, and that is why this movie is different, and special.