w h a t m a i s i e k n e w
23rd August 2013
Scott Magehee, David Siegel
23rd August 2013
Based on the groundbreaking Henry James novel (that I haven’t read) about a little girl with self indulgent, spoilt parents in Bohemian New York, What Maisie Knew is a beguiling slice of grown up drama with a pitch perfect cast.
The titular Maisie (a fantastic Onete Aprile) lives in a New York penthouse with her fading rock star mother Susanna (the ever wonderful Julianne Moore). Their existence is chaotic at best and quickly descends to unmanageable levels as Susanna's relationship with Maisie's father, art dealer Beale (Steve Coogan) finally reaches the levels of spite and cruelty only two people who once loved each other can execute. Susannah's mothering skills are dragged through the court where is doesn't take a genius to see although there is love there, she is not a good mother and Maisie is then put in almost an identical situation but now with her preoccupied father. Beale shacks up with Susannah's nanny, Margo (Joanna Vanderham), whom he poached when he won custody of Maisie and Susannah gets married to handsome young bartender Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgard). In this mixed up world of self-indulgent selfish parents the two on the outside, Margo and Lincoln become Maisie's most reliable carers and find a relationship of their own. Through all of these adult going ons and neglect, Maisie is ever watchful, never judging, just observing.
It's credit to Coogan and Moore that Susanna and Beale are even watchable because their characters are pretty awful, self centred, spoilt folk who you really wouldn't want to spend too much time with. This is a great role for Coogan, perhaps the first where I've really enjoyed him although I suspect playing a charming millionaire with an eye for the ladies isn't a huge stretch. Ha. Moore is just about keeping it on the side of not irritating but it's a close call, she looks fantastic and I love her so I went with it, if you aren't a fan it may feel a little grating but blame the role I say. There is one scene that sums Susanna up when she asks poor little confused Maisie - 'I am still your mommy aren't I?', insecurity and desperation radiating out of her. We almost want Maisie to say no. Alexander Skarsgard I adore and he plays Lincoln with a lovely light touch, his scenes with Maisie are beautiful and we really get a feel for the sensitive soul with a lot more to offer. There is a wonderful scene where Lincoln gently tries to show Maisie, through a drawing of a castle, that money isn't everything before she is snatched away by her jealous mother. Beautifully played, most women would fall in love with Sakrsgard at that moment if they weren't already. Brit girl Vanderham also holds her own here and is extremely likeable as confused nanny Margo. Of course the star of the show is the eponymous Maisie. Aprille plays this role so well, it's the best child acting I've seen since Kirsten Dunst shone in Interview with The Vampire. A star for sure.
What Maisie Knew may be a bourgeoisie drama about people with first world problems but it is beautifully written by Carol Cartwright and Nancy Doyne and directed by David Siegal and Scott Mcgheee. The lesson in James' book was about Maisie growing up and seeing the world and that's not what we have here what we do have is a sensitive and keenly observed story of a little girl lost who may just be found.
Check out the trailer here.