Despite showcasing a wonderful cast of characters, Rebecca Miller’s Maggie’s Plan fails to bring anything to the table that will leave you thinking about it after exiting the theater. Maggie’s Planis a lot closer to one of the 21st-century works of Woody Allen than a Noah Baumbach picture. Without Gerwig, the Baumbach comparisons would be few and far between. New York City is as much of a character in Baumbach’s works as his characters. Whereas in Maggie’s Plan, Miller just uses it as the overall landscape in which the film takes place in, rather than utilizing it to her advantage like Baumbach so expertly does throughout all of his New York City-centric works. Most of the enjoyment out of Maggie’s Plan comes from watching the admittedly exceptional ensemble work their magic with each other.
Miller’s screenplay is littered with endless coincidences. The first act of Maggie’s Plan shows how Hawke and Gerwig became associated with each other. A majority of the first act revolves around Maggie’s (Gerwig) plan to have a baby by herself, which takes a turn for the unexpected once she and John (Ethan Hawke) fall in love with each other. Before falling head over heels for John, Maggie’s plan is to artificially inseminate herself with the seed of a Guy, a pickle entrepreneur. The final scene of the first act finds Maggie in the process of inseminating herself when John knocks on Maggie’s door to profess his love for her.
Overall, Miller’s screenplay is a mixed bag. On one hand, there is a handful of great one-liners that are dispersed throughout the film, most of which come from John’s pretentious babbling. The screenplay lacks creative juice during the elongated pseudo-intellectual conversations between characters, most notably between John and his ex-wife, Georgette (Moore). Of the three major performances in the film, Moore’s is undoubtedly the weakest of the bunch. Moore’s character is nothing but extremities that will begin to crawl under the audience’s skin, just like they had been doing for years on end with John. While the point of her character is to boast the most extreme attributes, Moore just lays it on way too thick here. Her Danish accent constantly goes in and out throughout the course of the film. Miller has no apparent sense of how to work Moore into the film once John and Georgette go their separate ways.
Despite only running for a scant hour and a half, Maggie’s Planbegins to overstay its welcome with the final act of the film still yet to take place. The third act lacks the happy-go-lucky nature that the first act clearly presents the film with, but the film slowly begins to digress into something else to the point where it is no longer prevalent in the final act. The final act is undoubtedly the weakest of the three. Maggie’s final plan is something you would expect from a terribly far-fetched rom-com. Maggie’s intentions throughout the film become increasingly unclear as the film progresses. By the time the third act comes around, the audience never has a clear idea of why she does not handle her predicament like an adult, rather than coming up with a devious plan.
It is an anomaly how Maggie’s Plan got into the New York Film Festival this year. Of all of the character-centered films that premiered at other festivals this year, it is disappointing that this was the one that played at New York. It is no secret that the programmers of the festival love to play films that take place in New York, but Miller fails to ever utilize her New York City landscape in a way that many of the other New York City-centric films playing at the festival this year did so much better.