Jun 5, 2013

What Maisie Knew comes

Extremely highly recommended from the Wife and I.  Starring Julianne Moore, Steve Coogan, and six year old child, Onata Aprile, as Maisie, this is one of the finest films the Wife and I have seen in years.

The film is a modern update on Henry James' novel of the same name, and is remarkable for the superb method of forcing the audience to see the entire action through the naive, extremely objective eyes of a six year old.  This is accomplished with a masterful panache, appearing nearly artless.  The audience does notice that much of the action is shot at Maisie's eye level, but there are also things that the script does, like leaving out key details of incidents in the plot, details that Maisie prob would not have heard, or even understood or cared about if she did hear.  I also think that some of the acting choices that the directors and the actors came up with, notably sequences where Maisie is overhearing an argument or a discussion amongst the adults in her life, are played flat, as if to reinforce the feeling that Maisie is hearing a type of language she recognizes, but does not fully comprehend at her tender age.

The film also projects a subtle, yet definite sense of dread or fear for Maisie's personal well-being throughout.  Renee and I were particular invested in the action of the film, reacting verbally at many of the twists and turns as the story unfolds.

I loved all the performances in the film, including all four adult leads -- Steve Coogan really stood out to me, as a completely self-involved art dealer, who has absolutely no ability whatsoever to connect, comprehend, or communicate with his own daughter; and the Wife was particularly taken with Ms Moore's performance -- but, the real star of this picture is Aprile.  There is even talk that she might garner an Academy Award nomination.  I am absolutely flabbergasted how they found her, and coaxed such a sweet, frankly European objective performance from her.  She is amazing. Even if she never acted again, she has this under her belt.  She could retire right now, literally on top.  (Perhaps she should.)

I know next to nothing about the directing team that made this extremely touching and honest film. It was directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel, and Maisie is their fifth film.  Perusing their cv, I notice that they have done a few thrillers, and that definitely comes across in very subtle shadings in this movie.  I really can not compare this film to many others in style.  The closest comparison I have would be to Cary Fukunaga's excellent Jane Eyre of 2011.  Both are adaptations of famous novels,and both are expertly told through the eyes of their lead character. Plus, both films are seamlessly layered with fraught moving moments of suspense.

I am going to rifle through McGehee and Siegel's previous work, and keep you updated.

Definitely see this film, folks.  Of course, catch it in a theater if you can, but see it.

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