Film review: What Maisie Knew

 

_WMK6241.NEF
Julianne Moore plays mother to Onata Aprile in “What Maisie Knew.”
Millenium Films

Henry James’ 1897 novel “What Maisie Knew” sticks closely to the point-of-view of young Maisie Farange, whose custody is coveted by two bitterly divorced parents — “not for any good they could do her,” James puts it, “but for the harm they could, with her unconscious aid, do each other.” It’s an alternately horrifying and grimly amusing work about a girl shuttled back and forth between two parents and their rapidly multiplying menagerie of new partners. Wherever she goes, Maisie serves as the pretext for unmarried man and woman to be together, necessary social cover for the Victorian era.

There’s no equivalent ill uses of a child in this updated version. Manhattanite Maisie (Onata Aprile) takes the split of her rocker mother Susanna (Julianne Moore) and art dealer father Beale (Steve Coogan) in silent stride. Susanna’s jealous of her child’s affection when around but perpetually unavailable. Beale’s even more unavailable. (Coogan puts his increasingly honed cold, stand-off-ish persona to good use.) In the novel, nanny Margo (Joanna Vanderham) becomes Beale’s new wife, while occupation-less Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgård) is Susanna’s retaliatory new husband. Both are valued primarily for their youth, ending up cast off by their flighty partners and drawn together. Here, they’re just super-nice young people (both actors are very appealing) who don’t mind spending endless amounts of time looking after Maisie.

Aprile looks appropriately sad throughout without being mawkish. Ferried back-and-forth across Manhattan via endless taxis, Masie doesn’t keep her counsel so much as look winsomely at people and wait for them to hug her. Moore shouts, begs for unearned empathy, and sings one song (big mistake), while Coogan’s as absent dramatically as he is from his daughter’s life.

The fifth film co-directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel, “What Maisie Knew” has a good eye for Manhattan’s glossier neighborhoods but nothing to say about it. The film invites us to witness the end of one marriage and the beginning of a new romance — a happy ending at odds with the child’s-eye view of inevitably traumatic divorce that’s ostensibly the point. Lack of fidelity in an adaptation is no crime, but with such a pointless movie, it’s hard to know why the title of this public domain novel — whose loosely adapted plot points could have been stolen for free — was retained. Then again, maybe that’s the point: a bait-and-switch for James devotees, with the original removed and no substitute offered.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.