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By Jayne Waterford
Copyrighted © Jayne Waterford, 2012.
First published 14th August 2013.Revised 3rd January 2015
REVIEW: "WHAT MAISIE KNEW" by Jayne Waterford

What did Maisie know?

This is not a story about the devastating ramifications of divorce law court processes, though they do feature every so often. It's a very quiet comedy that laughs at ridiculous people.

Julianne Moore plays failing rock star and self-indulgent fruitcake: Suzanna. Moore plays her with perfection. Moore chooses a lesser incarnation of Christie Amphlet for Suzanna. She retains water, she dresses inappropriately, her long-term career as a rock star is failing and she is self-centred in terms so absolute that we think she has a personality disorder and she is a mother. She is one of the people in Maisie's life who ultimately has to interrupt her life to find time to watch Maisie. But it wasn't always like this.

Steve Coogan plays Beals, an art dealer who is always on the make for a sale. Suzanna is past it in his opinion and he's over it. Unfortunately we don't see how their family operated before Beals left. The film opens with Suzanna carrying Maisie to bed. She obviously loves her daughter and they share a lot of affection though even a lullaby becomes about her rock status. Suzanna is consistently ridiculous and distracted by

herself. Well done Moore. She even tells Maisie that she married a lovely tall, young bartender (Alexander Skarsgård), for her. Maisie then tells him to do her drawing.

Both Moore and Coogan are very generous in their portrayals as the whole story is from Maisie's perspective. Both of them play their roles as a certain thing. Their arcs go off on tangents away from Maisie's life. It's Maisie who we follow.

Scott McGehee and David Siegel "WHAT MAISIE KNEW" (2012) is a film about six characters. The sixth person named as the titles role is Zoey, a child who had a sleep over with Maisie and did not cope with the rock-star stimulus and noise. She was collected by her parents in the middle of the night. And that is what these people are like. They have a small, privileged, tight world where two of the people in it serve the other two. Maisie knows this.

What Maisie knows is best captured in a scene with Margo (Joanna Vanderham). They are walking next to a park pond and six-year-old Maisie asks if Margo is still married to her father? "It's not pretend is it?" Margo is a nanny. Margo's love and concern for Maisie is the best quality childhood Maisie has. Margo is compulsively responsible. She gets us through this story.

You have to wonder about a child's disillusion as a topic for comedy but the funniest scene is when Lincoln arrives late to pick up Maisie and introduces himself as Maisie's new stepfather. Suzanna's is a world of impulse.

Directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel take the idea of a six-year-old, subjected her to inappropriate adult behaviour and have her mother abandon her. What happens to six-year-old Maisie is ridiculous, shocking and angering. Her mother dumps her at her latest husband's work place even though he’s not on. She's passed around between wait staff while they try the whole night to find someone she knows. She wakes up in stranger's places and is quietly distressed. When Maisie is dumped, "WHAT MAISIE KNEW" becomes a different film. It becomes a movie.

One could take a post-modernist back seat and say the chaos of their lives is just some montage of events or we could see the pressures acting on the six characters in our story leading them to be as they are and to be used, even by Maisie. But who wants to think this hard?

What Maisie knew is in itself an interesting question.

She knows where she is happiest. She is able to choose not to go with her mother but to stay with an ideal couple who create a home for her, it's all about her as it was all about Suzanna. "I was once like you," Susannah says to Maisie. Yes you were.

What's interesting about the home created by Margo (Beals ex-new-wife) and Lincoln (Suzanna's estranged new husband) is that she gets the home every child needs but it's provided by devoted employees used by Maisie's parents. This becomes Maisie's heaven and when Lincoln arrives and shows he has decided to fall for Margo, she has her family. They play games and plan days at the beach and do everything we have not seen Maisie do except with her nanny and Lincoln this whole time.

The perfect couple are a consequence of contemporary culture. They are made by magazines and PLUS they're nice and caring. These clip-out blondes have augmented their sweet human nature with a contemporary style. However, they also choose to slot into the lives of the privileged. It's nice to remember Skarsgård can play that ass-hole who creates the world's most famous porn stars in Rob Epstein & Jeffery Friedman's "LOVELACE" (2012). Oops. Just remembered that was Peter Sarsgaard.

I could rave on about Suzanna all day.

The sound track is mostly Susanna's recordings, a noise afflicted with sex and indulgence.

Suzannah's costume is so good her clothes seem like a choice and tell her a lot about her. For example, she selects a black zipper skirt for her appearance in court where she looses sole-custody. She turns up to pick Maisie up from school in the leopard print coat and no skirt. She wears tartan like she has solidarity with punk rock, in fact, she seems to be channelling a minor incarnation Christie Amphlet. Suzanna is a free wheeling rock star who tries to please men like the best trash.

Did I enjoy this film? It was about self absorbed, boorish animals and young love under the threat of obligation. It was shocking and angering. So not really. I was almost waiting for Suzanna and Beals to get back together again. Who else could stand them? Only Beals had flown the country. He said good bye to his little daughter forever, over dinner, in a restaurant, like they were breaking up.

"WHAT MAISIE KNEW" is a brilliantly realised story. It's a horrible story of indulged people. It's all about drama or should I say, a drama queen! It is clever. It

delivers a thoughtful examination of pressures on values, even values that aren't chosen. It's just not very nice to watch. I didn't have the guts to play a horrible person. Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan do.

I didn't enjoy this subject very much but it's fabulously made. 8/10

Copyrighted © Jayne Waterford, 2012.
Scott McGehee and David Siegel's
Release Date 22nd August 2013
Category Drama
Running Time 109 minutes (1 hour, 49 minutes)
Origin USA
Awards OFFICIAL SELECTION Toronto International Film Festival 2012, OFFICIAL SELECTION Sydney Film Festival 2012, OFFICIAL SELECTION San Francisco International Film Festival 2012
Director Scott McGehee and David Siegel
Writers Mr. Carroll Cartwright and Ms Nancy Doyne
Stars Julianne Moore, Alexander Skarsgård, Onata Aprile, Joanna Vanderham & Steve Coogan

Official Blurb "A contemporary New York City revisioning of the Henry James novella by the same
name featuring Julianne Moore, Alexander Skarsgård, Onata Aprile, Joanna Vanderham & Steve Coogan, "WHAT MAISIE KNEW" is a touching comedic drama set against the chaos and complexity of modern marriage and family.

"WHAT MAISIE KNEW" revolves around unwitting 7-year-old Maisie (introducing Onata Aprile), caught in the middle of a custody battle between her mother Suzanna (Moore), an aging rock star, and her father, Beale (Coogan), a major art dealer.

Featuring Julianne Moore, Alexander Skarsgård and Steve Coogan, "WHAT MAISIE KNEW" is a touching comedic drama set against the chaos and complexity of modern marriage and family; directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel ("UNCERTAINTY" , "THE DEEP END" , "BEE SEASON" , "SUTURE" ).

Based on a contemporary interpretation of the classic Henry James novel, and set in present day New York City, the story centers on Maisie, an unwitting six-year-old girl enmeshed in the bitter divorce of her mother, a rock and roll icon, and her father, a charming but distracted art dealer. As Maisie is shuttled back and forth between them, she comes to rely more and more on her parents’ new spouses, who begin to see how selfish and damaged Maisie’s parents really are,

and who find themselves falling in love with one another.

Julianne Moore stars as SUSANNA, Maisie’s mother, and Steve Coogan as BEALE, the father while Alexander Skarsgård stars as LINCOLN, Susanna’s new husband and Joanna Vanderham plays Margo, the former nanny who has become Beale’s new wife.

Darkly comic and emotionally compelling, "WHAT MAISIE KNEW" is an evocative portrayal of the chaos and complexity of a modern marriage. "WHAT MAISIE KNEW" is produced by Bill Teitler (POLAR EXPRESS, EMPIRE FALLS), Chuck Weinstock (FRACTURE, JOE GOULD'S SECRET), and Daniela Taplin Lundberg (THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT). Taplin’s Red Crown Productions will finance, with Daniel Crown ("DIRTY GIRL") and Riva Marker ("THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT") serving as executive producers.

"WHAT MAISIE KNEW" is built around a simple conceit: the singular perspective of a six-year-old girl at the center of a turbulent story. We come to know each character through his or her interactions with Maisie.

It’s an innocent and generous point of view, one that infuses the film with its lightness—a lightness that’s

surprising, given the events that unfold. And it is this lightness that really drew us to the project. WHAT MAISIE KNEW tells an emotional story about a tough life situation, but manages to capture a spirit of hope and optimism; and even make us laugh.

Yet it never succumbs to the sentimental. For all of Maisie’s innocence, her story has a natural, real-world truth. She’s got a simple, clear-eyed take on the world that captures a bit of what’s difficult alongside a bit of what’s funny and absurd. And a bit of what makes things work out okay from time to time.

We’re excited, as well, by the formal challenges and opportunities in telling a young girl’s story. In expressing her point of view cinematically; not by means of dictating to the audience what Maisie might be feeling, but by catching a bit of what it might look and feel and sound like to be that little girl. To be a child searching for her own quiet voice in an otherwise noisy world." - MADMAN ENTERTAINMENT PR