Maggie (Greta Gerwig) finds herself falling for an unhappily married man, John (Ethan Hawke) and consequently ending his marriage to the eccentric but brilliant Georgette (Julianne Moore), which gives Maggie everything she wanted, doesn’t it? Finding herself three years later with a daughter and a husband she’s no longer in love with, but who seems to be still in love with his ex-wife, whom he was clearly always perfect for, what should she do? Written and directed by Rebecca Miller, also starring Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader, Travis Fimmel and Fredi Walker-Browne.
The idea of putting together Gerwig and Moore was brilliant in theory and it does not disappoint in practice, the two actresses work wonderfully together and their interactions are definitely some of the best in the film. Gerwig’s Maggie is incredibly interesting in the sense that for the half of the film where she’s a mistress rather than the wife, she fits none of the usual archetypes you would see, she’s old-fashioned in her dress sense, very much matter of fact without a particular charisma, more of a simple charm and yet she manages to seduce a man away from his more glamorous, successful wife. Gerwig is hard to dislike, it’s a rare thing to find a role in which she doesn’t excel and this is particularly a great one. Moore is brilliant as Georgette, with the accent, her complete sense of apathy and blunt honesty, quietly steals the show and it would have been even better to get to see slightly more of her throughout the film. Hawke however feels stagnant here because it’s simply a role that he’s been seen in frequently, playing a pretentious academic, particularly reminiscent of his character from Richard Linklater’s trilogy, but it does befit his role given that he’s more a pawn of the story. Lastly you do have to mention Rudolph and Hader as Maggie’s married friends, they provide a lot of the humour as well as feeling like more relatable characters on screen, with the two of them of course having great on screen chemistry, having worked together for such a long time.
The story itself is a great idea, to attempt to scheme with your husband’s ex-wife to get them back together because you’re sick of him, it’s funny and intriguing but sadly it doesn’t quite get given its fair due on screen. The whole concept of scheming doesn’t come into it much, it’s quickly decided and a few actions are taken and that’s about it, which is a real shame as taking more time to see Gerwig and Moore planning the manipulation of Hawke’s character would have been great to see. The comedy element of the film is much more downplayed than expected, at points is so subtle as to pass by without most of the audience noticing, the tone is also much less sarcastic or ironic than you’d expect and both of those do lessen the enjoyment slightly. Despite those elements however it is still clever and entertaining with it’s own certain charm.
Overall it could be said that the film is underwhelming, it doesn’t quite hit the note you’re expecting but it is still a joy to see Gerwig and Moore on the screen together and the actors are the ones that really make this film. The story is funny and enjoyable to watch, it may not live up to expectations but regardless it is still a good film, and even if it weren’t, it would be worth the watch for Moore’s performance alone.