One day they're going to make a movie about a writer who isn't selfish and has everyone's best interests at heart but until then we have Maggie's Plan. A far cry from Rebecca Miller's previous outings (the dour Ballad of Jack & Rose and sour The Private Lives of Pippa Lee), Maggie's Plan is essentially a romantic comedy in the vein of The Back Up Plan. But it plays around with the tropes shown in that awful Jennifer Lopez vehicle and heads off in unexpected directions. It’s damn funny too.
Maggie (Gerwig, as charming as ever) is a thirty-something New Yorker determined not to wait around on a life partner to have a baby and settles on hipster ex Guy (Travis Fimmel) to be the sperm donor: "How much involvement do you want? I was going to suggest none." Everything goes swimmingly until she falls for respected anthropology professor John (Hawke), in the process of his first foray into fiction. Married to the cold Georgette (scene-stealer Moore channelling Ayn Rand), with whom he has two children, John's ego is stoked by Maggie’s enthusiasm for his novel and so sets about leaving his wife. But is the baby Guy's or John's?
Maggie's Plan marches to the beat of its own drum. It pulls apart rom-com clichés and puts them back together in a haphazard fashion, unafraid to have its awkward ends sticking out. It wants to explore the decisions made in rom-coms and what happens when the couple come to regret the love they’ve declared for each other. While most movies in the genre usually stick to a short time frame, Maggie's Plan skips forward in time – first months, then years – to take stock of the characters further down the line to see how they’ve grown and changed as people.
It attempts to make unlikeable characters charming and goes out of its way to invoke audience sympathy in characters that are usually villains; Hawke might be self-centred but he doesn't deserve to be manipulated so (the plan to have a child is not the only plan Maggie puts in action here) while Moore's Ice Queen is revealed to have warmth and compassion. Gerwig's initially loveable Maggie becomes less likeable as the story progresses. Sulky Bill Hader, another Maggie ex, and wife Maya Rudolph are in the kooky best friends role but they have they're one real life problems going on too.
Full of Baumbachisms and Allenisms ("'Like' is a language condom"; John is famous for penning Rituals of Commodity Fetishism at the Tail End of the Empire), Miller infuses the story (co-written with Karen Rinaldi whose unpublished novel forms the basis for the characters) with a fun jitteriness as it bounces along to its eclectic soundtrack.
Maggie's Plan should satiate anyone looking for a rom-com with teeth.