When will Greta Gerwig move out of New York City? No doubt this quirky and totally Greta movie received a lot of support from the Big Apple for showcasing several city tourist attractions, but it did not do the story any good. In spite of the overwhelming exposure for the location, the story is good enough and the film entertaining. But one still has to ask what kind of movie it would have been if it had been set in a more ordinary American location. More acting and less scenery.
Writer Director Rebecca Miller (story by Karen Rinaldi) follow up her “Private Lives of Pippa Lee” and “The Ballad of Jack and Rose” with this relatively formulaic treatment of ingénue Maggie struggling with life in the big city. Maggie has problems with sustaining relationships and has decided to take the issue into her own hands, literally, and have a child on her own. This yields a half hour of maneuvering to find the right sperm donor and the marginally funny attempts at self-impregnation.
If you enjoy Greta you go along with this and the tour of the city including the mathematician turned pickle maker in Brooklyn who is the shy sperm donor. As this is not working out, Maggie runs into John (Ethan Hawke) who is married with two kids to Georgette (Julianne Moore). Everybody lives in million dollar apartments, has steady jobs and is unhappy. Life in paradise is such a bore.
Maggie inserts herself into the marriage and a rom-com of sorts is born. No tragedy here, nobody is killed or goes to prison, but everybody learns a lesson and the film ends with a kiss and black ink on the bottom line.
What kind of story would this have been set in Kansas? The photography is overwhelmingly bright and perky and in spite of the personal drama everybody seems ready for a new day. Set in a location without the million dollar apartments and the tenured professorships at Columbia, this could be a dark and deadly situation. Set in New York it is presented as a fairly normal blip in the course of married life which works itself out in the end.
If there is a moral, it is that life sometimes turns out OK no matter what dumb adults try to do. As in Moore’s much better “The Kids Are All Right,” the kids know more than the adults and call them out. Good lesson there for kids growing up with dysfunctional parents, but will the kids watch this movie? Some of the success of “Kids” is due to the absence of the overwhelming location. This forces the story to stand alone and emphasizes the actors rather that the mise en scène. “Maggie’s Plan” could have been a more forceful and significant film if it had done that.
There are better films in store for all concerned. Get Greta out of New York.