Maggie is on the verge of change. She is determined to not end up the sort of woman who decides to have a kid at age 50 in some sort of misguided last-ditch effort to be happy. She wants it to be a choice when she is still young enough to make passionate ones that come from the right place.
Without a boyfriend, Maggie (Greta Gerwig, Noah Baumbach’s FRANCES HA) decides to seek out a sperm donor, settling on a former school chum named Guy (Travis Fimmel, the TV series VIKINGS), a pickle entrepreneur, which is apparently a thing. Around the same time, she has a convenient run-in with John (Ethan Hawke, Richard Linklater’s BOYHOOD), an author and teacher of ficto-critical anthropology, which is also apparently a thing. There is a slight attraction, although John is married to a Columbia professor named Georgette (Julianne Moore, Peter Sollett’s FREEHELD), who is soon to start a position that will occupy most of her time.
Years later, the pickle pusher is out of the equation and Maggie and John have developed an actual relationship, which is fully triggered when John shows up to Maggie’s apartment one night expressing his desires. This all, expectedly, crumbles once Maggie realizes that John just isn’t the one for her. Or is it that she’s just not made for long-term relationships?
Despite clear attempts on the part of writer/director Rebecca Miller (2009’s THE PRIVATE LIVES OF PIPPA LEE, 2005’s THE BALLAD OF JACK AND ROSE), MAGGIE’S PLAN isn’t nearly as clever as it wants to be. When it thinks it’s veering into an original direction, it goes back to the expected, complete with self-loathing and unfulfilled existences. At its core, MAGGIE’S PLAN is just another indie movie about an indecisive New York millennial who can’t seem to decide what her life should be.
That can be compelling and even humorous when the right elements are in place. But MAGGIE’S PLAN is so desperately trying to stand outside of what it really is that it becomes more eye-rolling as each new expected scenario is introduced.
One thing that will draw in an audience is the promising cast headed by Greta Gerwig. The issue with Gerwig is that her range is limited. She has a strong fanbase that is quick to leap to her defense, but really, this is such a typical role and performance for her that she again fails to do anything interesting with it, resulting more in watching Greta Gerwig play a variation than watching her give her character any depth. (Most of the supporting cast of Hawke, Moore, Bill Hader and Maya Rudolph do more to fill up the poster than they do with their own characters, with Hawke easily being the standout.)
To her defense, the character herself is where many of the movie’s issues arise. Maggie is designated to be the hero, but she displays so much instability—that the guy she gets sperm from is named merely Guy hints that Maggie will settle for anyone (or, any guy) with the ability to ejaculate simply so she can get the baby she feels she needs. This isn’t someone to cheer for; it’s someone who might need an evaluation.
Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. The video features fine details and textures, as well as healthy colors.
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio; Russian 5.1 Dolby Digital; Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital. Subtitles in English, Chinese (SimplifieD), Chinese (Traditional), French, Russian and Thai. Dialogue is clean, but there’s little that stands out.
Commentary with Rebecca Miller: Miller offers a fine track in which she discusses the production, cast, characters, themes and more.
Controlling Fate: The Making of MAGGIE’S PLAN (15:52): This featurette looks at the plot, the differences between the source novel, the themes, the multiple love storylines and more. Interviewees include Miller, Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke and Julianne Moore.
Q&A at the Sundance Film Festival (11:29): Miller, Gerwig, actor Travis Frimmel and producer Damon Cardasis partake in a Q&A session at the 2016 festival.