What Maisie Knew
DIRECTORS: Scott McGhee and David Siegel
CAST: Julianne Moore, Steve Coogan, Alexander Skarsgard, Joanna Vanderham, Onata Aprile
RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes
It’s that age-old story of two people falling out of love and going through a bitter divorce with the innocents, the most affected.
Based on a Henry James story, there’s not much new here, but it is valuable as a reminder of the way adults turn into children when they’re in trouble, while their children, often much too young to take on the responsibility, aren’t given a choice. It’s time to step up, life seems to say.
Fortunately, sometimes survival instincts kick in and to the astonishment of those not paying any attention to what is happening outside of their inward-looking me-sphere, they are given a kick in the butt.
Maisie (played with real sparkle and sensitivity by Aprile) is seemingly steering her life in as straightforward a line as possible inbetween the ballistics of her parents’ lives. Their only aim seems to be to spew the other with poison of any kind.
They hardly notice Maisie who slinks away as soon as the verbal barrage kicks in.
She knows it will run for some time and also understands that it doesn’t have much or anything to do with her.
The only positive note here is the performance by Moore as the ageing rock star mom and Coogan as the artist father who isn’t happy to play second fiddle even to his fading wife.
Into Maisie’s life steps the new halves of her splitting parents and while these fresh appendages are much younger than those supposed to take care of her, they seem to be wiser – much to the neglected youngster’s joy and needs.
There’s a bit of a sugary hew to this one and the story doesn’t yield any surprises, but with a powerhouse cast, the events are given firepower.
It’s always interesting to watch adults who can’t see their behaviour moving desperately close to that of troubled teens and yet, they’re expected to provide solace for the children in their care. Often they’re the ones who shouldn’t have taken on any responsibility as they haven’t taken on any of life’s lessons while growing up. It’s a sad and sorry tale, but not told with too much inspiration or innovation. Yet it can’t be told often enough. We never seem to learn.
Dealing with the subject of children who have to take care of parents, The Squid and the Whale is a much more challenging experience. It’s not that What Maisie Knew is bad, it’s simply safe and predictable – with quality performances.
If you liked The Squid and the Whale or American Beauty, you might like this one.