Life is messy and unpredictable. Love is complicated and at times unexpected. Children will make you question your whole adult existence. And as much as you’d want to, as prepared as you are, you cannot control what life throws at you next. Maggie (Greta Gerwig) learns this the hard way.
Maggie’s Plan, Rebecca Miller’s (The Private Lives of Pippa Lee) adaptation of Karen Rinaldi’s original story, follows the life of an unimpressive yet somewhat relatable young woman who desperately wants to be a mother, but who hasn’t had any luck with the men in her life. Maggie’s obvious lack of cliché sex appeal and genuine nature is a part of her charm, and Gerwig, America’s indie sweetheart, totally inhabits the role.
Fed up with her inability to find romance and sustain a long-term relationship, Maggie decides she wants to completely skip a step. The film wastes no time. We immediately learn Maggie wants to artificially inseminate herself with the help of a willing donor, acquaintance and pickle entrepreneur, Guy (Travis Fimmel). Understandably, the plot aims for modernity, specifically when it comes to depicting a modern woman – independent and in control of her own life and destiny. However, it is irritatingly flawed; she is not mature enough to sustain a relationship, yet feels she can take on motherhood.
Before she can successfully implement the plan, Maggie meets John (Ethan Hawke) at The New School, where she works as a careers counsellor and he as an adjunct professor. The chemistry is subtle but immediate, a credit to Gerwig and Hawke’s authentic realisation of their first unexpected and pleasant encounter. John is, as the ever-funny Maya Rudolf’s Felicia so graciously puts it, “the hunky panty-melter professor of ficto-critical anthropology.” As John’s marriage to intelligent and overbearing Danish academic Georgette (Julianne Moore) crumbles, Maggie enters the picture.
Unfortunately, Miller’s portrayal of this slow seduction is slow and disenchanting. Maggie’s sudden emotional release towards John is, not for lack of trying, awkwardly handled.
Both unexpectedly and daringly, Miller skips forward two years, illustrating a life after the affair and the complications that come with it. This is really where the bulk of the film lies. Realising that she may not longer feel the same way about John as she once did, Maggie hatches a plan, the plan to end all plans. The film takes an upswing after this point – getting into the more nitty-gritty of love, relationships, marriage and family. Miller explores these themes in comical, authentic and somewhat profound ways. If we are to take anything away from the story, it is that plans do not always pan out as intended, but they could work out in the most pleasantly unexpected ways.
Unfortunately, much of the plot is unrealistic, with too many tired elements – the New York setting, the entitled artists, the normalization of single parent-hood and the attempts to restore lost romance. Luckily, it is salvaged by excellent character development, genuine portrayals, and Miller, who captures moments of surprising depth between instances of humour and sheer absurdity. Although not perfectly gelled and maybe at times mediocre, Maggie’s Plan undeniably has its heart in the right place. It’s still an enjoyable, feel-good experience, but the kind you could wait for to hit Netflix and watch from the comfort of your bed.
Perhaps Georgette best sums up the film when she describes her feelings towards Maggie. “There’s something about you that’s just a little bit stupid, but I can’t help it, I like you.”
THE REEL SCORE: 6/10