Friday, June 7, 2013

What Maisie Knew

As any modestly educated, half-literate 21st century citizen knows, What Maisie Knew is a novel written by Victorian luminary Henry James that—what? No, I'd never heard of it either. Yeah, my knowledge of James is limited to "Turn of the Screw" and Portrait of a Lady.

Anyway, Maisie, published in 1897 but updated for cinematic purposes, is the story of a young girl whose awful, awful, AWFUL parents are divorced and use her in their ongoing battle to be the Most Awful Person Ever.

Julianne Moore plays rock star mom, who throws inappropriate parties at inappropriate times, letting numerous strange musician-types wander around. Not-So-Successful Dad, Steve ("We Leave At Dawn") Coogan, looks like he might have a scrap of decency at one point but, no, no he doesn't. You were quite mistaken.

Shortly after their divorce, mom and dad quickly remarry, for the sole purpose having someone to take care of their kid. Former nanny (Scottish actress Joanna Vanderham) ends up caring for Maisie predominately, except for when bartender-cum-cougar-bait Alexander Skarsgard (of the Stockholm Skarsgards) takes her ('cause, you know, mom's on tour or whatever).

Nanny and bartender end up hooking up and forming a semi-stable family unit when Maisie's parents abandon her in increasingly careless ways.

The movie ends more romantically than the book.

Maisie is played by the suitably winsome Onata Aprile.

We liked it, though it had a surreal quality to it. It's hard to believe, in this day and age, in a story like this because the government never really gets involved. I gotta believe, in modern times, the state would swoop in and end this charade (though hardly for the better).

Directed by Scott McGehee and David Seigel of Bee Season, Uncertainty and several other films I avoided seeing, this movie is not unpleasant to watch, despite/because of the sort of fairy-tale-ish quality.

The kids also found it unobjectionable though they were not overly impressed.

Really fine performances. Moore especially punchable in this one.

I confess was thinking, at first, "OMG! Is that Maisie Lebwoski?!" Of course, if it were, Maisie would be 17, not nine. And Jeff Bridges would be in the Steve Coogan role. It just wouldn't have been the same.

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