A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Friday, June 8, 2018

Maggie's Plan (Rebecca Miller, 2015)

Travis Fimmel and Greta Gerwig in Maggie's Plan
Maggie: Greta Gerwig
John: Ethan Hawke
Georgette: Julianne Moore
Tony: Bill Hader
Felicia: Maya Rudolph
Guy: Travis Fimmel

Director: Rebecca Miller
Screenplay: Rebecca Miller
Based on a story by Karen Rinaldi
Cinematography: Sam Levy
Production design: Alexandra Schaller
Film editing: Sabine Hoffman
Music: Michael Rohatyn

Director-screenwriter Rebecca Miller keeps the comedy in Maggie's Plan in check, so that scenes that might have been hilarious wind up amusing, and scenes that might have been amusing take on an edge of melancholy. In the end, the film feels a bit overburdened by the necessity of working out the titular plan: a career woman who, in midlife crisis, decides to have a child with a sperm donor. That's the contemporary equivalent of the kind of formulaic dilemma that used to spin the plots of Doris Day's movies. As Maggie is going through her plan to inseminate herself with sperm donated by the agreeable, if somewhat oddball Guy, she manages to fall for a married man, John, who is at odds with his wife, Georgette. This leads to a comic scene that I don't think I've ever encountered in another film: Having just inseminated herself, Maggie hears the doorbell and crabwalks her way to answer it, only to have a rather messy accident when she stands up. It's John, of course, there to proclaim his love for her and to sleep with her. We jump ahead three years: John and Maggie are married and have a little girl. But as their marriage goes sour, and we realize that John and Georgette were really meant for each other after all, another plan is introduced: Georgette and Maggie plot to undo what has been done. Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke, and Julianne Moore are marvelous performers, of course. But there's something off about Miller's touch, so that the humor is lost in the mechanisms of the plot. The ending kicker, however, in which Maggie realizes that Guy, and not John, is the actual father of the child, is nicely done.

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