What Maisie Knew

2012

Drama

Synopsis


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English
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23.976 fps
1hr 39 min
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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Michael_Elliott 5 / 10

Unique Gem With Some of the Best Performances of the Year

What Maisie Knew (2012)

*** 1/2 (out of 4)

Excellent updating of the Henry James story about a divorcing couple (Julianne Moore, Steve Coogan) and the impact that their behavior has on their young daughter Maisie (Onata Aprile) as well as the new step parents (Alexander Skarsgard, Joanna Vanderham). WHAT MAISIE KNEW isn't going to appeal to a mass audience but it's certainly a terrific little gem from directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel. What I enjoyed the most was the unique way it told the story. We never get the "full" story of everything going on but instead we get the bits and pieces that a child would remember about something. Instead of finding out why a parent leaves her at school, we just see how the child remembers being left alone. Instead of knowing what the parents are fighting about, we see how it impacts the child and her memories of it. This is a very unique way to tell the story and it gives a touch of freshness to a storyline (divorce) that we've seen before. It also doesn't hurt that the film doesn't shy away from some rather ugly behavior from the parents and especially the Moore character. To say she's an unworthy mother would be an understatement but I appreciate the film playing things straight and not ever trying to make something cute. It also doesn't hurt that we get some of the best performances that you're going to see all year with Moore doing an excellent job in her role as the busy mother who doesn't have enough time for her daughter. This is a rather ugly role so it was brave for the actress to take it on. The same with Coogan who also plays a jerk and delivers with some strong work. Both Skarsgard and Vanderham really steal the film in the roles of the step parents who find themselves being forced to deal with something they never expected. Both of them should be remembered at Oscar time but we'll see how that goes. The same is true for Aprile who doesn't get too much dialogue but we constantly see her reactions to the things going on around here. This is such an excellent and quiet performance and something you'd see in a silent movie. WHAT MAISIE KNEW is about a pretty ugly subject matter but it's a fascinating look at it for those who enjoy great performances and a unique story.

Reviewed by isachs 10 / 10

beautiful film and story

A gorgeous film that manages to convey the emotion of childhood at its more heart-wrenching. The central performance by Joanna Vanderham is absolutely extraordinary, and reminds me of some of the greatest child performances I've ever seen on film. As her parents, Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan make you feel like you are right in the middle of the tumult of family life. Directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel have created a movie that feels like life, the vulnerability, the abruptness, the comedy, the joy.

With intimacy at times almost startling, this is one of the best adaptations of a novel by Henry James I've ever seen.

Reviewed by David Ferguson (fergusontx@gmail.com) 7 / 10

She knows plenty

Greetings again from the darkness. An ultra-modern update of the 1897 Henry James novel introduces us to parents we know, but wish we didn't. Steve Coogan plays Beale, a self-absorbed art dealer. Julianne Moore plays Susanna, a self-absorbed rock star. OK, you and I may not know art dealers and rock stars, but we know self-absorbed types and we know they make terrible parents. So not only do we know it, but it's also what Maisie knows.

Five outstanding performances and strong work by co-directors Scott McGhee and David Siegel prevent this one from spinning off into the neverlands of melodramatic muck. Onata Aprile is a wonder as Maisie. She displays none of the typical "movie kid" precociousness. The movie (and James novel) are told from her point of view. We see the fragmented bits and pieces she experiences as her parents fight. Rather than a full story, we share her moments of late pick-ups, early drop-offs and forgotten trips.

Soon enough Beale and Susanna are divorced and the real wars begin. These despicable adults make little effort in hiding their hatred of each other from 6 year old Maisie. It becomes background noise to her life. Further proof of the epic narcissism from both, Beale soon marries Margot the nanny (played by Joanna Vanderham) and Susanna reacts by marrying Lincoln, a band gopher and bartender played by studly Alexander Skarsgard. The most startling moment of the movie occurs when Lincoln first begins playing with Maisie ... it's as if we had almost forgotten what it means to give your attention to a child.

This is not an easy film to watch ... at least if you understand that parenting means putting yourself second. The directors do a wonderful job of showing us how Maisie takes in moments and what memories she makes from these. The neglect and false moments of caring from her parents make her acceptance of the attention to her step-parents even more poignant. We can't help but hope things work out for this little girl and it's a reminder that childhood innocence cannot be recaptured once lost ... and it's worth hanging on to for as long as possible.

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