For a dynamic filmmaker like Rebecca Miller, whose output up to this point has been defined by a distinct impressionistic pulse ( Personal Velocity , The Ballad of Jack and Rose ), Maggie's Plan might seem pedestrian by comparison. The story of a 30-something single woman (Greta Gerwig), whose decision to have a baby through artificial insemination goes awry the second she falls in love with a married academic (Ethan Hawke), doesn't aspire to the sensual and psychological impulses of her previous work. It's plainly shot, casually paced and at times horribly repetitive.
Yet the film dissects patterns of self-absorption and cynicism, allowing for an astute examination of the human remains left over by confused and desperate decisions. Whether caused by millennial angst or emotional discontent, Maggie's course toward single motherhood merely acts as MacGuffin for larger emotional questions. Her attraction to John quickly overwhelms all reason, leaving her a slave to the excitement of courtship. The two bond exchanging notes and ideas over his rapidly expanding novel that fictionalizes the passive-aggressive horrors he's experienced married to a high-strung professor (Julianne Moore).
Maggie's Plan stays with these characters over the course of many years, as their motivations evolve and personalities crystalize. At times, this process is frustrating to experience, since Miller forces us to bear witness to life's messy cyclical nature. While the three lead characters struggle to figure out how to piece together the jigsaw puzzle they have created together, more lively supporting players (the couple played by Bill Hader and Maya Rudolph specifically) grow increasingly frustrated and vocal, a Greek Chorus continuously proclaiming, "get on with it!"
For better or worse, the film, which opens Friday, May 27, never apologizes for staying true to this thorny process. It remains content to skip over the salacious parts of Maggie's schemes to revel in the long, messy aftermath.
Alice Through the Looking Glass : Look who keeps falling down the wrong rabbit hole.
Francofonia : Director Alexander Sokurov uses the Louvre and its artworks as backdrops to stunning reenactments to tell the story of Jacques Jaujard and Count Franziskus Wolff-Metternich, two men who were forced to collaborate and preserve the museum’s treasures while under Nazi occupation. Screens through Thursday, June 2, at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Hockney : The definitive portrait of artist and photographer David Hockney, who has long struggled to debunk the power of labels in both his work and private life.
Maggie’s Plan : A thirty-something professional (Greta Gerwig) decides to have a baby through artificial ensemination, only to have her plan derailed after she falls in love with a married colleague (Ethan Hawke).
The Idol : A young Palestinian man who drives a taxi and sings at weddings for a living decides to follow his dream and try out for Cairo’s hit television show, Arab Idol. Opens Friday, May 27, at the Angelika Carmel Mountain.
The Lobster : In a dystopian future, single people are sent to a “hotel” where they must find a suitable mate in 45 days or will be turned into an animal.
They Will Have to Kill Us First: Malian Music in Exile : In 2012, Islamist hardliners took control of Mali and banned all forms of music. This documentary tells the story of the country’s musicians and how they fought back against extremism to ensure their musical culture lives on. Screens through Thursday, June 2, at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
X-Men: Apocalypse : The world’s first mutant, a biblical villain named Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) threatens to destroy the world, forcing Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and the rest of the X-Men to take action.
One Time Only
Stripes : In this comedy from director Ivan Reitman, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis play two friends who decide to join the Army after becoming increasingly disillusioned with their menial jobs. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 25, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
The Princess Bride : Rob Reiner’s classic revisionist fairy tale pays homage to the archetypes, stories and absurdity of a bygone genre. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday – Sunday, May 26 – 29, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Tokyo Godfathers : On Christmas Eve, three homeless people find an abandoned baby on the streets and set out to find its parents. Screens at 11:55 p.m. Saturday, May 28, at the Ken Cinema.
E.T. the Extra-terrestrial : A young boy befriends a kind alien and tries to help him flee Earth to return home safely. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 31, at the Arclight La Jolla Cinemas.
Boogie Nights : Paul Thomas Anderson’s decade’s spanning masterpiece set in the San Fernando Valley porn industry. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 1, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.