What Maisie Knew
“What Maisie Knew,” is an absorbing, well acted and uniquely told story of a family breakup. What sets it apart from other dysfunctional family stories (if that could be called a genre) is that it is seen entirely from the point of view of Maisie, an only child, who looks to be about four or five-years-old.
Maisie is played by Onata Aprile. It is a performance simultaneously rich in depth, childhood naivete and yet one that also displays great strength as Maisie tries to come to grips with, and make sense of, what is happening around her. How directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel got such a performance from this young actress, without relying on easy sentiment, is a real credit to them.
Since “What Maisie Knew” is told from the child’s perspective. As a result, we do not get all the details of what is going on, as we might in a more traditionally told story. For example, there are no anguished court room scenes in which the parents fight for custody, although these certainly do occur off camera. Interestingly enough, I did not miss these scenes. We are only shown what Maisie sees and that is all that is needed. From this perspective we are given enough exposition to follow the story and fill in any blanks. For example one parent attempts to manipulate Maisie against the other, the parents argue, Maisie’s mother talks to her lawyer via cell phone. Things just come at Maisie, and us, often unexpectedly. What this means for the audience is that we get to experience events on two levels. We see them from a child’s point of view but, at the same time, we can apply our own, adult, perspective.
The cast is quite good. At first it looked as if the father, nicely played by Steve Coogan, was going to be story’s heavy. It seems to me that men usually receive a bad rap in these types of movies. Somehow it is just too easy to blame the father. However, no sooner was I having this thought then I discovered that the mother, played by Julianne Moore, is no bargain either. Alexander Skarsgard and Joanna Vanderham round out the cast, playing two people who represent a respite, and maybe even a better life, for Maisie.
“What Maisie Knew” is based on a novel by Henry James. The story has been updated to modern day New York. It is a sensitive, insightful drama, uniquely told and played by a fine cast.
“What Maisie Knew” is playing locally at Angelika Film Center, 18 West Houston Street.
What Maisie Knew, Director Scott McGehee and David Siegel, 2013, Millennium Entertainment, 99 minutes, rated R
Posted on May 8, 2013, in New and tagged Alexander Skarsgard, Angelika Film Center, David Siegel, Joanna Vanderham, Julianne Moore, Onata Aprile, Scott McGehee, Steve Coogan, What Maisie Knew. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.