WHAT MAISIE KNEW is a contemporary New York City re-visioning of the Henry James novel by the same name, written by Carroll Cartwright and Nancy Doyne. It revolves around unwitting 7-year-old Maisie, caught in the middle of a custody battle between her mother Suzanna, an aging rock star, and her father, Beale, a major art dealer. In a race to win the court's advantage, Beale marries Maisie's nanny Margo, prompting Suzanna in turn to marry friend and local bartender, Lincoln. Both forced into a battle neither wishes to be a part of, Margo and Lincoln come to empathize with Maisie's position and over time with one another's. Teased by the notion of making their own surrogate family, the trio must either submit to the will of Maisie's parents or eventually face their wrath.Written by
Fortissimo Films [nl]
What Maisie Knew (2012), directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel, is an extraordinary movie about an extraordinary young girl. Maisie (Onata April) deserves better parents. Both her mother (Julianne Moore) and her father (Steve Coogan) are self-absorbed people who care about Maisie, but care about their careers more than about their daughter.
Maisie is cheerful, cooperative, and adaptive. Although her life has all the trappings of luxury--a nanny, an exclusive private school--she lives in a precarious world. Her parents make only haphazard arrangements for her care. Sometimes these arrangements work, sometimes they don't. Once, the haphazard plans fall through, and Maisie is literally abandoned among strangers. We don't know what will happen next to Maisie, but it probably won't be good. Her parents don't deserve such a great little girl. But, she is their daughter, and she'll have to play the cards she's been dealt.
The acting is strong in this movie, but I think the most impressive work is done by Julianne Moore. Moore is brave enough to take a role where she often looks tired and worn, and where her character is truly inadequate as a parent. You cringe at the way Moore makes stabs at being a good mother, but never quite works hard enough to actually achieve that goal. I think she deserves--and will get--an Oscar nomination for her work in this film.
There are a few lovely views of a beach and the ocean in the movie. These will work better in a theater, but everything else will work well on the small screen. This is definitely a film that is worth seeking out and seeing.
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