What Maisie Knew Movie Review
Even though this drama is based on a 115-year-old novel, it feels powerfully timely today in the way it recounts events surrounding a particularly grim divorce. As we see the story through the eyes of a young girl caught between her self-involved parents, we are emotionally drawn right to the heart of the matter. Of course, it takes skilled filmmakers and a far-above-average cast to make this work.
Maisie (Aprile) is the 6-year-old daughter of fading rocker Susanna (Moore) and art dealer Beale (Coogan), whose marriage isn't dissolving quietly. As fiery arguments echo around their New York apartment, Maisie can't quite understand their anger but feels her hope fading. Sure enough, they separate, and when she goes to visit Daddy she's unnerved to discover her nanny Margo (Vanderham) is now living with him. Then Mommy marries nice-guy barman Lincoln (Skarsgard), who becomes Maisie's most reliable friend as her parents use her as a weapon in their bitter custody battle.
Directors McGeehee and Siegel (Bee Season) cleverly maintain Maisie's point of view all the way through the film, so we only see and hear things as she would. Much of what happens is never explained to her, but we get it and we understand that she probably does too. This includes the shocking irresponsibility displayed by both Susanna and Beale, who continually dump Maisie on each other as a kind of assault. And because they're preoccupied with their work, it's up to Margo and Lincoln to pick up the slack.
All of these characters are developed with a rich complexity that allows us to see under their skin. The script and the acting are prickly and delicate, so we cling to those moments when Moore and Coogan show some parental love, but our affection is stolen by Vanderham and Skarsgard. And at the centre, Aprile is simply stunning, revealing Maisie's feelings and imagination in ways that catch us by surprise. All of this gently explores how adult selfishness affects children whether or not the parents are splitting up. It also reminds us that kids can interpret what's going on far better than we think, and that even when everything is falling apart around them, they are resilient enough to seek happiness wherever they can find it.
Cast & Crew
Screenwriter : Nancy Doyne, Carroll Cartwright