EIFF 2016: Julianne Moore and Greta Gerwig team up for a sporadically sparkling rom-com
The fifth film from writer-director Rebecca Miller (The Ballad of Jack and Rose) thrillingly brings together current queen bee actress Julianne Moore and luminous young pretender Greta Gerwig. They’re operating at different ends of the acting spectrum in a fitfully fizzy dramedy – while Moore appears to relish the opportunity to kick back her heels and dig out a random European accent as a ferociously intelligent, amusingly ludicrous diva, Gerwig is forced to play it straighter as she shoulders the burden of the film’s believability.
‘I need a baby,’ grumbles Maggie (Gerwig) to best friend Tony (Bill Hader), before announcing that she’s secured a sperm donor in pickle entrepreneur Guy (Travis Fimmel). Matters are further complicated when, around the time of insemination, Maggie embarks on an affair with married anthropology academic John (Ethan Hawke), who finds this deeply practical woman a welcome contrast to his needy genius wife Georgette (Moore, going for Danish apparently, but channelling Dietrich). A child is born, their lives rumble on but, years down the line, when things begin to look far from rosy our protagonist hatches the titular scheme.
Aiming for something Woody Allen-esque, Miller doesn’t quite nail the tone. Her film lacks the visual energy to complement the narrative farce and feels erratically plotted (the paternity issue is put awkwardly to one side, and the plan itself is an awful long time coming). However, the focus on smart, complicated women is welcome, the often razor-sharp dialogue soars in the mouths of the esteemed ensemble, amping up the film’s entertainment value, while the messiness of adult relationships is nicely summarised in the eye-rolling reactions of John and Georgette’s teenage daughter Justine (Mina Sundwall). With white-hot performers at its fore and a screwball-style premise, Maggie’s Plan promises more than it ultimately delivers but there’s abundant fun to be had along the way.
Screening on Sat 18 and Sun 19 Jun as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2016. General release from Fri 8 Jul.