Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What Maisie Knew

They say you can't choose your relatives, and if you were Maisie, the charming six-year-old at the centre of this movie, you wouldn't have chosen the parents she had. A possible alternative title for the film could have been How Not To Be a Parent. At the beginning of the film, Maisie's parents  (Suzanna the rock singer and Beale the art dealer) separate. They each fight for sole custody, but the judge comes down in favour of a shared solution. It's not clear whether each parent fought for custody to get one over on their ex or because that's what they thought a parent should do, but one suspects it was more the former than the latter. While they each appear to have affection for their child they have no desire to let looking after her interfere with their respective careers or lifestyle.

Beale solves the problem of child minding by promptly marrying Margo, the family's Scottish au pair who Maisie is already fond of. Suzanna follows suit by marrying Lincoln, an easy-going bartender. I'm sure she chose him for his good looks and temperament but it turns out he's great with kids. So then we see these train-wrecks of parents stuffing up their new relationships and completely failing to ensure Maisie's well-being. One of the most heart-wrenching scenes is Maisie being put out of a taxi by her Mother outside the bar where Lincoln works and when she gets inside we discover Lincoln isn't working that night.

So I'm sure you're wondering why you'd put yourself through watching something quite so traumatic and it's hard to encapsulate why it's such a rewarding watch. It's partly because its very much from Maisie's perspective and  very non-judgemental - we see the characters' behaviour and can form our own conclusions. It's also because the young actor who plays Maisie does such a good job. Iit's because even though she has such useless parents there are still people who care for her and look after her well and with whom she forms relationships - and it's a refreshing change for the step-parents to come out looking like the good guys.

Alexander Skarsgard (who plays Lincoln) is a ravishing as ever, and a totally appealing character to boot. You can't blame Margo for finding him more rewarding to spend time with than her monumentally selfish husband  (Steve Coogan, who's very practiced at playing bastards). As the film draws to a close, there's hope for a happier future for Maisie and the good guys.

Anne's rating 4/5.

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