My interest in What Maisie Knew came from a trailer that appeared rather unexpectedly in a summer almost destroyed by The Lone Ranger preview.
I knew I would see the film and I wanted to read the book by Henry James beforehand. I did try I gave the book more than a fair chance but I didn’t enjoy it. My lack of enthusiasm for the novel didn’t hamper my interest in the film as I sensed that the content would transfer very well to a modern day setting.
PLOT: After her parents Suzanna (Julianne Moore) and Beale (Steve Coogan) divorce seven year old Maisie (Onata Aprile) is caught in a bitter custody battle. Suzanna and Beale both want custody but lack the ability to care for her properly. When Suzanna and Beale quickly remarry it falls to Maisie’s stepparents Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgard) and Margo (Joanne Vanderham) to raise her. END PLOT
The outline of the script does scream after-school-special but the sentiments are handled with a degree of subtlety.
As I expected the anger of Suzanna and Beale transfers very well and with the child being caught up in the bitterness it does make for riveting viewing.
Any film which focuses on a child is only as good as the child actor and Onata Aprile is absolutely fantastic as Maisie. Aprile has some very real reactions while witnessing the volatile arguing of Suzanna and Beale yet positively glows with happiness during the scenes with her stepparents.
Julianne Moore is as good as she has been in years and although he was perhaps an odd choice to play her husband Steve Coogan holds his own. Moore and Coogan had brilliant chemistry which made their arguments very real.
I have never watched a single episode of True Blood and my only knowledge of Alexander Skarsgard stems from Battleship so I was pleasantly surprised by his performance. Skarsgard wasn’t playing the leading man; he was very awkward, softly spoken and ridiculously sweet to Maisie.
The chemistry between Skarsgard and Vanderham was as sweet as the chemistry between Moore and Coogan was angry. This was intentional but it felt natural.
The film clocks in at 99mins but despite the upheaval and fast moving relationships What Maisie Knew doesn’t feel rushed.
What Maisie Knew gets 8.5/10 and is a very good little film that deserves more attention than it will get.