Not a big fan of family dramas as they usually become cheesy and, honestly, they aren’t my cup of tea. However there are some that have a more realistic approach and that have provide some good parts for actors. What Maisie Knew is one of these exceptions.
I was surprised to find out that the movie is an adaptation of a Henry James novel, published in 1897, though it is set in present time, some characters are changed and the ending isn’t as sad as the book’s. Not that I’ve read the book, just found out some stuff about it on the internet.
The movie is about a little girl, Maisie, about 5 years old as she deals with the separation of her very loving but not very skilled parents. Her mother, played by the always brilliant Julianne Moore, is a rock star in her 40s, and her father, played by Steve Coogan, is an art dealer about the same age. They are seen arguing from the beginning of the movie, and seem to have reached a critical point. Maisie is not dealing alone with her parents’ fights. She has a nanny, young Margo who has a special relationship with the girl and cares a lot for her.
Following her parents’ separation (apparently they weren’t married), she is drawn to court with her mother, so it will be decided who will she live with from now on. Her father marries the nanny which helps him get custody of Maisie. Soon after that her mother, Suzanne, marries a young bartender named Lincoln, played by Alexander Skarsgard.
Margo is constantly rejected by her husband and Suzanne doesn’t seem to be having a usual married life. It is obvious now that both parents married just to get custody of Maisie, but both of them don’t really get to spend time with her and truly listen to this truly great kid. Maisie is a good kid, is friendly, lovely, not a problem. She lives a good life, quite the luxury, and surprisingly doesn’t have the signs of a spoiled kid.
However, she craves for some quality time with her parents. It’s quite heartbreaking to see how neglected she is by her parents, despite their love. Quite a powerful aspect of the movie.
Following the crumbling of both of her parents’ marriages, Maisie is being taken care of by Margo and Lincoln who enjoy spending time with her. The two of them get to know each other and even start a relationship after all the time spent together with Maisie. They don’t have the obligation to take care of her, but they do it and they like it. They form a little family.
Due to her parents’ unavailability, Maisie spends the night at one of Lincoln’s colleagues like a freaking stray child. This is the high point of the film, where things have gone too far. After this incident, Margo takes Maisie to her cousin’s beach house where they are joined by Lincoln. Together they have a wonderful time until Suzanne comes from the tour she’s been in and Maisie must decide whether to go with her mother or to spend more quality time with her two step parents.
As in any drama film, acting is very important. Well, it’s important in every movie, but it’s crucial in a drama. What Maisie Knew has a very talented cast. Starting with the great and underrated Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan, well known comedian whose work, unfortunately, I’m not very familiar with. Alexander Skarsgard is great as Maisie’s father figure and Joanna Vanderham has some good scenes with her role as Margo. I was really impressed with little Onata Aprile playing Maisie. It’s very nice to see a young actor shine in such a realistically played role. She was wonderful and I hope she gets to show more of her acting talents in the future.
The story was handled rather well. They chose to make a happy ending rather than doing the one in the book. Even though that one is pretty harsh, it does feel a little similar to the one in the movie.
I think it will hit close to home for some as there are many children who are neglected by their overworking parents. I haven’t experienced such a thing but the story still impressed me.
What Maisie Knew is a pretty good drama with an emotional subject, about how children see divorce and how parents should always be by their side no matter what.