What Maisie Knew

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Image courtesy of What Maisie Knew Words by Elizabeth Pollard

What Maisie Knew, starring Julianne Moore, Alexander Skarsgård, Onata Aprile, Joanna Vanderham and Steve Coogan, is an American drama about a child as the result of a contentious marriage and narcissistic parents. Based on the 1987 Henry James novel, this modern adaptation is set in New York City. An erratic, vacant rock star is married to a charming but irresponsible art dealer who neglect their daughter Maisie through a difficult divorce. After trying to win custody by each embarking on relationships with younger lovers, Maisie begins to understand the selfishness of her parents and falls unexpectedly into the care of the respective lovers; Margo and Lincoln.

The film is shot beautifully from Maisie’s perspective. Quietly, softly and observantly, the audience feels like a fly on the wall, peering through the glass, looking on to a scene of inappropriate debauchery as conducted by her parents. A soundtrack doesn’t crowd the moments of contemplation and equally is not obviously following the seven year old, which could condescend the audience. One of the most successful aspects of the film are the relationship each of the adults has with Maisie. Her parents are selfish, yes. But the love and intimacy they share with their daughter is very much real. Each character is a wonderfully subdued, accurate representation of a normal human being. Not a saint. Not a martyr. Not innately evil. Just human. And sometimes a human doesn’t get it right.

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