Saturday, April 27, 2013

Opening Night

What Maisie Knew
The opening night film at this festival always seems to be something of a crowd-pleaser, and this year's entrant is no exception. While on the surface it seems a downbeat affair, centered as it is on a troubled relationship, the framing device (nearly everything is shot from the perspective of Maisie, the couple's six-year-old child) actually helps lighten the mood significantly. Seeing things through the eyes of a child, rather than making the whole thing more tragic, makes the already high unreality of the situations seem even less consequential. After all, Maisie carries on, no matter what. Onata Aprile's performance in the title role is excellent and naturalistic, but the filmmakers' reluctance to let anything bad happen, even when Julianne Moore's character leaves her daughter alone on a New York streetcorner, undermines the weight of the emotional questions involved. The fairytale obviousness of what happens to the two young, blond lovers caught in the middle of the custody dispute (as SOs of the leads) is similarly overdetermined and undercuts the story.

Still, Aprile's performance and the framing device are enough to keep the movie interesting, and Steve Coogan's performance as the father gives us the black humor that might have been a better mood throughout than the airy everything-will-be-ok feeling we get from watching Maisie navigate a bunch of silly grownups.

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