Since paying money to see a Woody Allen movie these days is becoming harder and harder to justify, for oh so many reasons, it's nice to see there are alternatives out there if you are craving a romantic comedy centered are intelligent but very neurotic New Yorkers. Rebecca Miller's Maggie's Plan is filled with smart characters who discuss philosophy while walking around Washington Square, but then make incredibly stupid romantic decisions.
Greta Gerwig, who I've been been entranced with ever since I saw her stuff pizza into her face in House of the Devil, plays another of her patented modern-day Diane Keaton roles as Maggie, a young and single career gal who decides she wants to have a baby on her own, choosing Guy (Travis Fimmel), a former college classmate-turned-artisinal-pickle-maker as the donor. Her best friends (played by Maya Rudolph and Bill Hader) do their best to be supportive, while also pointing out just how tough parenting can be.
Then Maggie meets John (Ethan Hawke), a "ficto-critical anthropologist" and professor who is also working on his first novel. Soon they are meeting for lunches, he's asking Maggie to read his novel, and oh yeah, he's also got a brilliant but cold Danish wife, (Julianne Moore), who of course doesn't understand him. So Maggie's first plan hits a bit of a snag when she falls in love with John, he leaves his wife, they marry, and have a child together.
But John eventually reveals himself to be a narcissistic and possibly talentless writer who just can't seem to finish that damn novel, even though he spends more time on it then he does on parenting or their marriage. Which leads Maggie to come up with another plan, one she hopes will end with everyone happy.
It's fun seeing characters recognize the terrible mistakes they've made in their romantic choices, and while Maggie's plan might not be the most realistic, it's one that makes complete sense within the world of these characters.
Hawke's been playing flawed narcissists with aplomb since Reality Bites, and his John feels like the kind of lovable asshole Troy Dyer might have grown up to be. Julianne Moore's icy Georgette is probably the funniest part of the film. She may not have a perfect Danish accent, but she's got the academic-speak down pat, and delivers all of her lines with the perfect level of intensity and condescension. She also sports a series of increasingly ridiculous scarves and sweaters, and a perpetual top knot.
But Greta Gerwig is the film's heart. If you've seen her before and haven't liked her, this probably won't change your mind; she definitely has a character type, and she rarely strays far from that. But I've found her to be an amusing and fascinating actress to watch in all but one of her movies (last year's Mistress America). I just hope she continues to make Woody Allen-esque movies while staying far away from actual Woody Allen movies.
Maggie's Plan is currently playing at the Metreon and Clay theaters.