MAGGIE’S PLAN — Review by Susan Granger

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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.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.