Maggie's Plan (Review)

11/07/2016 16:04 | Updated 11 July 2016

I wish the Wayans brothers (Shawn, Marlon and Keenan), the team behind the Scary Movie franchise, would make a spoof film called Not Another Indie Movie. For me, the tipping point came with the 2015 film Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, which felt like a largely cynical exercise to win over Sundance audiences.

Writer-director Rebecca Miller's film Maggie's Plan is very much in the school of American independent filmmaking. Greta Gerwig plays Maggie, a young woman whose desire to have a child drives her to consider artificial insemination - right before she falls in love with married professor John played by Ethan Hawke. (Oh, the irony! Famously, Hawke had an affair with his nanny while he was married to Uma Thurman.)

All the familiar tropes are here. Quirkily dressed protagonist? Check! Quirky soundtrack? Check! Pretentiously self-aware dialogue? Check! Whitewashed background scenes? Check and check! When I sat down to watch, my expectations were pretty low. Indie darling she may be but I am no fan of Greta Gerwig, not After Mistress America, which felt like a dress rehearsal more than an actual movie. Ten minutes into Maggie's Plan, which revolves around one young woman's search for love and happiness, and I was slumped in my seat, groaning to myself.

But then something marvellous happens - and that something is Julianne Moore. As Ethan Hawke's Ice Queen Danish academic wife, she is a revelation. Her comic timing is impeccable and there are some laugh-out-loud moments. "I read your book," she tells her ex-husband John played by Hawke - before dumping a plastic bag full of the burnt ashes of his manuscript on the table in front of them, delivered completely deadpan. Moore is so good, she near eclipses Gerwig. You wonder why she doesn't appear in comedies more often. I'd love to see her in a project with Amy Schumer and Melissa McCarthy.

Now, that's a film I'd like to see. Please, Hollywood, make that happen. You also realise just how rare it is to see two women in lead roles in a film - although this is a film that definitely wouldn't pass the Bechdel test.

The characters here inhabit a very white, very middle-class bubble. Critics have been comparing Miller's film about modern relationships to Woody Allen's work. While, there are some enjoyable performances (notably from Maya Rudolph, who plays Maggie's colleague and Bill Hader, who plays her friend), Maggie's Plan is certainly just as inward-looking.

Maggie's Plan is in cinemas now.