What Maisie Knew Blu-ray Review

WHAT MAISIE KNEW is a modern take on a novel of the same title from 1897 written by Henry James.  The setup is your common legal battle involving two wealthy individuals who fight tooth and nail to keep custody of their child for all the wrong reasons.  What is not common is that this story is told from the unique perspective of the child herself, Maisie (Onata Aprile, THE HISTORY OF FUTURE FOLK).

What Maisie Knew

Since the story is told from a child’s perspective, it’s only fitting that it be unapologetically harsh, and at times even difficult to watch.  When you’re a child, everything from the size of a theme park to the taste of mediocre ice cream is enhanced.  To have to witness your parents rip each other to shreds in your name, can be nothing short of traumatizing.  Onata, 6 years old at the time, is able to carry the heavy weight on her character’s shoulders.  Although Maisie’s upbringing in a very “well-off” Manhattanite family is alien to a large percentage of viewers, Onata is able to connect the viewer to the story through her innocence and advanced perception.

What Maisie Knew

Directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel (UNCERTAINTY) make a bold choice of telling the story through the eyes of Maisie, and they stick to it as well, keeping the camera at Onata’s eye level so the viewer can be immersed in the heart wrenching pain of watching your family fall apart.  They avoid the cliché “Hollywoodizing” moments of a family courtroom battle and illustrate the complicated layers of a real family in turmoil.  The duo was also successful in translating how a young child can remember a despicable act yet squeeze out and hold onto the single drop of happiness within.

What Maisie Knew

Alexander Skarsgard brings along a small part of his TRUE BLOOD character Eric to play Lincoln, the new man in Maisie’s mother’s life.  Not at all in the arrogant, violent, self-centered, blood sucking vampire aspect, but with the occasional child-like naivety in which Skarsgard is extremely convincing, enabling him to make the strongest connection with Maisie and really provides the most powerful adult performance of the cast.

What Maisie Knew

Julianne Moore (DON JON) and Steve Coogan (DESPICABLE ME 2) are uncomfortably believable as Maisie’s self-absorbed parents.  Moore, who plays aging rock musician Susanna, conveys the perfect amount of aloofness to keep the viewer walking the line between pity and hate for her character; while Coogan wanders way outside of his comedic comfort zone to play Beale, a father that has removed himself from his child’s life to the point where he begins to  realize that his own daughter is a stranger.

Perhaps simultaneously the most powerful and disturbing facet of WHAT MAISIE KNEW is that its over 100-year-old source material is probably more relevant than ever in 2013.  It separates itself from other films with similar subject matter and even though it may have conceded to possible outside pressure concerning the film’s ending, it’s easily one of the most contempo pieces to deal with a harsh reality that plagues families and is responsible for a larger part of our troubles in society than we’re ready to fully admit.


Video:  2.35:1 Widescreen, 1080p/AVC MPEG-4: The contrast on the picture is very good, blacks are rich, whites are not too bright and the colors are vivid without the common side effect of being oversaturated.  The only real criticism would be that the overall sharpness could be a little finer.

Audio:  English Dolby TrueHD 5.1: There’s nothing more annoying when watching a film than having to constantly adjust the volume because the dialogue is too low or the sound effects/soundtrack is too loud.  That’s exactly what happens on this disc.  The individual elements are all good, but the mix is way off target.

What Maisie Knew

Directors’ CommentaryCommentaries are usually more entertaining when there’s more than just one person in the screening room.  Sometimes a director will bring in an actor or cinematographer just to have someone to take off the pressure of doing the whole thing themselves.  Since this film has 2 directors, that wasn’t a problem.  The commentary flows smoothly without any awkward pauses.  They go somewhat deep into the actors’ processes in preparing for their characters.

Deleted Scenes (2 min):  4 scenes that do not add much, if any, value to the overall film.


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