Probably best-known for The Ballad of Jack and Rose, indie writer-director Rebecca Miller has a shot at some mainstream popularity with Maggie’s Plan, a thoughtful romantic comedy that’s like a feminist update of vintage Woody Allen. The film stars Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha) as Maggie, a 30ish New Yorker who’s on the hunt for a no-obligation sperm donor because she’s decided to be a single mom (never having had a boyfriend for longer than six months). Unexpectedly she gets interested in John (Ethan Hawke), a famous anthropologist with dreams of becoming a novelist. Described as “a real panty melter” by a faculty colleague, the raffishly charming John is languishing in a troubled marriage: his wife, a fiercely intelligent fellow academic named Georgette (Julianne Moore), is a prickly brainiac who seems to have ice in her veins. And so it is that sweet, kindly Maggie has only read the first few chapters of John’s novel-in-embryo by the time the two fall madly in love.
Jump ahead three years and Maggie and John have a beautiful two-year-old daughter named Lily. They also have a deeply troubled relationship, as John has devolved into a childish narcissist. He also talks on the phone with Georgette several times a day, which gives Maggie the idea that she’d be better off returning John to his ex-wife rather than raising Lily in what has become a dead marriage. And so Maggie, who is a bit of a hapless control freak, hatches an elaborate reconciliation plan with the help of Georgette and Maggie’s two best friends (well played by SNL grads Maya Rudolph and Bill Hader). But fate has a plan of its own, and this hip and witty comedy proves to have a few genre-subverting tricks up its sleeve before the end credits roll.
Essentially, Plan is a serious-minded screwball comedy. The laughs tend to stem from wry insights into the ironies of modern life rather than fast-paced slapstick shenanigans. And the well-drawn characters have genuine depth and experience moments of drama and sadness that you just don’t find in the standard Hollywood rom-com. Give lots of credit to writer-director Miller – as the daughter of famed dramatist Arthur Miller she clearly has inherited impressive writerly genes.
But as good as this literate screenplay is at analyzing the nature of love and marriage, it’s brought fully to life by several impressive performances. Indeed, the movie could make a star of Gerwig, whose offbeat mixture of sweetness, unworldly daftness, and a hint of physical awkwardness makes her rather adorable.
Maggie’s Plan *** 1/2
Stars Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke, Julianne Moore
Directed by Rebecca Miller
Star Trek Beyond
Reboot expert J.J. Abrams surrenders the helm to Justin Lin (of Fast and Furious fame) for a familiar-sounding tale about Kirk and Spock and the rest of the Enterprise crew facing an alien threat on a hostile planet.
Celebrated actor Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) plays a good guy in this true tale of a fearless U.S. customs agent who went deep undercover in an attempt to take down notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar.
The goofily classic sci-fi comedy from 32 years ago gets a gender-savvy reboot as some very funny females – Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, and Leslie Jones – find out what it’s like to get slimed by ghostly ectoplasm.
Matt Damon reunites with savvy director Paul Greengrass for a bonus round of what was supposed to be a trilogy. Expect actions and thrills galore as this conflicted assassin-on-the-run desperately tries to untangle some scary geopolitical intrigue.
The Legend of Tarzan
Tarzan the ape man – he of the rippling muscles, throaty yodel, and jaunty loincloth – finds himself in a pulse-pounding adventure set in the Congo, where he becomes the unwitting pawn of an evil military mastermind (Christoph Waltz).