Movie Review : What Maisie Knew

 

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Based on a 116 year old Henry James novel of the same name ( yeah I had no idea either!), this is the story of a young girl trapped between her warring parents as they unsuccessfully try to navigate a bitter break-up.

Susanna (Moore) is a touring rock singer and her partner Beale (Coogan) is an art dealer. They live in a huge New York apartment and appear to lead a somewhat bohemian lifestyle. The only thing is they hate each other and are currently engaged in a protracted and nasty custody battle over 6 year old Maisie (Aprile). The movie is an homage to bad parenting and is told in aching innocence from Maisie’s point of view.

Susanna and Beale fight in front of Maisie, they fight over Maisie. They seem to not even care that she is around and that she can see and hear everything. Her nanny Margo (Vanderham) quite often tries to move her out of the line of fire but to little avail. Maisie seems to take it all in her stride and just gets on with her young life the best she can.

It becomes clear that the little girl is simply a weapon each parent tries to wield against the other although both seem convinced that they love the child and have her best interests at heart. Nothing could be further from the truth as they each tell Maisie how awful the other parent is and question her about what the other one is up to.

Maisie’s young life starts to take a dramatic turn when her mother marries bar tender Lincoln (Skarsgard) and he pays attention to the child. He does what all dads should do….he colours with her, subjects himself to her class show and tell, swings her around from his arm…. he becomes her dad. And Maisie loves him. Oh and dad marries the nanny …..

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This movie is wonderful but in a very disturbing way. We watch a little girl used and abused (emotionally) by her parents. The court awards custody to her father and she is shunted between both homes every 10 days. The new trophy spouses end up shouldering most of the responsibility for the little girl with surprising results.

The young Aprile as Maisie is simply amazing in the role. This is not a bratty, precocious performance but rather a resigned almost subversive acceptance of the way things are. She is watching and absorbing it all and you cringe at the damage her narcissistic parents are inflicting on their child. If this little girl is nominated for an Academy Award next year, I will not be surprised. Yes she is seriously that good.

This is not the movie to see if you feel like an escape or a laugh. But if you want to see a wonderfully acted drama with an engaging if uncomfortable story, you wont want to miss this one.

Love Flick xx

Director : Scott McGehee, David Siegel

Starring : Julianne Moore, Alexander Skarsgård, Steve Coogan, Joanna Vanderham, Onata Aprile

Running Time :  99 minutes

Release Date : In Cinemas Now

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