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Movie Review: Maggie's Plan


Maggie's Plan is directed by Rebecca Miller, but you'd be forgiven for thinking it was Woody Allen's latest romance comedy drama. The New York setting, the quirky dialogue, the excitable performances and the many shades of love make it comparable with this filmmaker. Even the calibre of the cast makes you think that this could only be Woody Allen, but it's not. Maggie's Plan is like a blend of Before Sunrise, What Maisie Knew and Mistress America. While Miller may be tipping the hat to the veteran, arguably master of romantic comedy, it has a misguided quality to it.

This comes through in the characters and even in the storytelling. Maggie wants to have a baby, so much so that she's willing to enter single parenthood on purpose. Just as she thinks she has found the right donor, along comes John, whose work-in-progress novel gives them a shared goal and leads to greater intimacy. While you can appreciate the chemistry, John is a married man and after he requites his love for Maggie, it's not long before he's divorced and they are married with child.

Maggie's Plan would be pretty ordinary without its strange "romcom" plot and stellar cast as Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke and Julianne Moore form the three corners of this love triangle. Their range of interplay encompasses each aspect of the romance comedy drama genre quite beautifully with some poignant and funny moments reflecting on the nature of fidelity. While at first quite excitable, playing into the screwball dynamic, they mellow with time as we come to terms with the lighter and darker sides of their endearment.

"There's just one thing... I'm married."

Gerwig is a strong actress playing into the stoicism and fortitude of Maggie. Hawke relishes the opportunity to play head-in-his-book writer, John, whose narrow focus and passion becomes both a strength and weakness. Moore plays Georgette like something out of a Wes Anderson film, using a bracing accent and high strung disposition to block empathy for the stylish ice queen. The ensemble is reinforced by the presence of Bill Hader and Maya Rudolph, who inject some hilarity into proceedings as Maggie's friends, while Travis Fimmel is convincing as the bohemian nice guy and sperm donor.

While Miller establishes a curious and unusual tone, leaning on her actors and whiplash dialogue, the storytelling is scattershot. While it's easy enough to fill in the blanks, the bits-and-pieces come at us like a game of Tetris, making it a bit unwieldy. The overall experience is not unlike Greta Gerwig's previous film, Mistress America, generating spark from a talented ensemble and charging into the inner city screwball comedy with wit and reckless abandon. This finicky mix isn't a crowd pleaser by any stretch, but is easier to appreciate if you focus on the performances and have a soft spot for the films of Noah Baumbach and Woody Allen.

The bottom line: Entertaining


 
Talking Movies with Spling - Vir die Voëls, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Ghostbusters


Spling reviews Vir die Voëls, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Ghostbusters as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Catch Talking Movies on Fridays at 8:20am and Saturdays at 8:15am every week on Fine Music Radio.

 
Movie Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them


J.K. Rowling's adventures of a young wizard named Harry Potter have entrenched themselves in pop culture. Books, movies, theme parks, wand TV remotes... the franchise continues to swallow book worms whole. After the series came to an end in two parts, a relief for some and travesty for others, we thought we'd seen the end of Potter's world. However, like some American public house sitcoms... some things have a way of reviving themselves through what is called an open air quotes... spin-off... close air quotes, just ask Frasier.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them follows the adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York's secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school. It's a stand-alone film that exists within the Harry Potter universe, feeding into the lore and showing a similar consistency, delivering its own story without Potter or Radcliffe.

While visual effects wizardry and wondrous sound design rules, the imaginative story doesn't get left behind... even if it may have started as a desperate attempt to reinvigorate the Potter dynasty. Rowling's writing seems boundless as we slip into magical briefcases, encounter a number of funny, familiar yet unheard-of beasts and are whisked away into an enchanted world between worlds.

Guided by the enigmatic Redmayne, given a sense of humour by Fogler, counterbalanced by the ever-suave Farrell and enlivened by the Goldstein sisters, played by Katherine Waterston and Alison Sudol, there's a never-ending supply of laughs and fun characters.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

"One day I hope to call it Newt York..."

Redmayne is a bit of a cold fish but has an otherworldliness about him, clouding himself in questions and refocusing us on the perilous yet magical adventure. While we never really get any answers, he's surrounded by a troupe of likable co-stars with Fogler playing into a buddy movie dynamic to root the New York element with some funny and charming interplay.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them doesn't delve too deeply into Scamander's life and without a substantial emotional investment, the adventure does seem a little superficial. Although you won't really notice this aspect thanks to good pacing, smart writing and eye-popping visuals. There's never a dull moment as Newt's briefcase of tricks causes havoc across the city and magic society.

We enjoy the same level of quality we've come to expect from the Harry Potter series under the direction of David Yates with a brand new layered tale. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is enriched by some smart allegories that feed back to the here and now. A lot of thought has gone into the film and it shows without becoming over-reliant on its Harry Potter heritage, but appealing to the same generation of fans who grew up with Rowling, who may have kids of their own by now.

The bottom line: Enchanting

 
Spling's Galileo Pick of the Week: Finding Nemo


Spling's Pick of the Week - Finding Nemo at Muldersvlei Estate

FINDING NEMO @ MULDERSVLEI ESTATE (3 Dec)

In its time, Finding Nemo was a game-changer, the pinnacle of animation heralded by Pixar. Having already raised the bar with Monsters Inc, they delivered yet another hugely entertaining animated adventure comedy for all ages. The misadventures of young clown fish, Nemo, have been beautifully captured by a smart, funny and touching script; brilliant voice casting; charming vocal performances; spectacular animation; comprehensive direction and an emotive soundtrack.

There's very little to fault in this prime example of film-making, which cleverly mingles adult themes into a format traditionally reserved for children. Entertaining, smart, endearing and hilarious, it's no wonder that this film still serves as a calling card for Pixar today.

This animated family classic is showing under the stars at The Galileo Open Air Cinema.

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