WHAT MAISIE KNEW is an adaptation of the novel written by Henry James. Seven year old Maisie (Onata Aprile) is caught between the custody battle of her two parents. Her Mother, Susanna (Julianne Moore) and Father, Beale (Steve Coogan) struggle to compromise when it comes to their failing family.
The cast was selected incredibly well with a superbly finalised screenplay hitting the highs and lows of a young girl caught between the sour relationship of her Mother and Father. The story is told from Maisie’s point of view which was an incredibly bold choice from directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel, and one that was pulled off beautifully.
If you’ve been closely affected by divorce at a young age, this film is too close to home. It starts off with Susanna and Beale continuously arguing and trying minimally to hide that from Maisie. During the first act, we get this feeling that one parent (Susanna) deserves Maisie more than Beale. This is quickly dismissed as we see both parents true colours start to form. Beale Marries the nanny, Margot (Joanna Vanderham) and Susanna marries middle class bartender, Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgard) in spite. These relationship add-ons are just pawns within the battle. As the film continues we see just how unfit Beale and Susanna are at parenting.
There have only been a handful of child actors that have actually been able to captivate the audience and carry out a strong performance that captures your heart and warms the soul. This is exactly what Aprile has done. She will do great things in Hollywood if she continues acting. Maisie (Aprile) is able to tell you exactly what she’s thinking with just one look, she knows when people are lying to her and she knows right form wrong. She’s smarter than both her parents and has grown up substantially in such a dysfunctional family.
Moore also pulls of an excellent performance (as usual) and we see her in a role which divides the audience; do we like her or hate her? It’s hard to determine whether or not she’s the villain in Maisie’s life as we see Maisie loves her Mum dearly. However, from an adults perspective, she shouldn’t be looking after a child when she can barely look after herself. Coogan delivers a solid performance and the chemistry between Moore and Coogan really does feel like a broken marriage.
Vanderham and Skarsgard start to shine about half way through the film. Both of there performances are great, especially from Skarsgard. We see a bond between Lincoln and Maisie that pulls at your heart strings. The same with Vanderham, although, at times it seemed her emotion was a little forced. These two fine actors will be ones to watch out for in Hollywood over the next decade.
The film is paced perfectly with great scenery and a roller coaster of emotion that has been planned perfectly. The technical aspects are great. It’s nice to watch an indie film that doesn’t have big close ups and unnecessary scenes. A film that’s true to heart and incredibly realistic. This film deserves to be seen at the cinema and definitely not overlooked.
WHAT MAISIE KNEW is a great film, a gem, and the amount of effort and thought put into the film really shows. I give 8 out of 10 stars. A new favourite.