Writer/director Rebecca Miller was obviously trying to make a screwball romantic comedy, set in New York, but the result is tepid from beginning to end. Realizing that her biological clock is ticking, ditsy, self-absorbed Maggie Hardin (Greta Gerwig) longs for a child. That’s why she’s requested sperm for artificial insemination from Guy (Travis Fimmel), her husky, brainy, former college classmate who’s starting a pickle business in Brooklyn. Read more…
At the same time, she falls for John Harding (Ethan Hawke), a shaggy college professor/wannabe novelist. He’s unhappily married to a dour, intimidating Danish anthropologist, Georgette Norgaard (Julianne Moore), and they have a couple of young children.
Discarding Mr. Pickle as an afterthought, Maggie discovers she’s pregnant, so middle-aged John leaves Georgette and marries much-younger Maggie. Problem is: after a few years, Maggie realizes not only does she not love John but that he was better off with Georgette. Hence, the plan.
Acclaimed as the current darling of independent cinema in “Frances Ha” and “Mistress America,” Greta Gerwig not only delivers confusing inflections but she swallows her sentences, a habit that becomes increasingly annoying.
Showing the decidedly un-glamorous lives of Manhattan intellectuals, Rebecca Miller (“The Ballad of Jack and Rose,” “Personal Velocity”) dwells on pretentious details, rambling on about arcane academia, but she doesn’t extend much effort insofar as character development and/or motivation, using Maggie’s best friends (“Saturday Night Live” alums Bill Hader & Maya Rudolph) as a Greek chorus.
“The characters are not me,” Miller asserts, “but they do reflect how I felt as a daughter, as a woman on my own, as a parent, and so on.”
Rebecca Miller is the daughter of playwright Arthur Miller, and her husband is actor Daniel Day-Lewis. So it’s not surprising that she alludes to Slovij Zizek, a Slovenian psychoanalytic philosopher and cultural critic who has gained international acclaim, asserting that ideology is an unconscious fantasy that structures reality.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Maggie’s Plan” is an acerbic, idiosyncratic 4, tartly erudite to the extreme.