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Maggie's Plan: Blu-ray + Digital Review

Maggie's Plan (2016) movie poster Maggie's Plan

Theatrical Release: May 20, 2016 / Running Time: 99 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Rebecca Miller / Writers: Rebecca Miller (screenplay); Karen Rinaldi (story)

Cast: Greta Gerwig (Maggie Harden), Ethan Hawke (John Harding), Bill Hader (Tony), Maya Rudolph (Felicia), Travis Fimmel (Guy Childers), Ida Rohatyn (Lily), Wallace Shawn (Kliegler), Julianne Moore (Georgette), Mina Sundwall (Justine), Jackson Frazer (Paul), Monte Greene (Max)

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Maggie's Plan, from writer-director Rebecca Miller, involves Maggie (Greta Gerwig),
a 30-something administrator at The New School in Manhattan, having a baby on her own by artificial insemination. Never in a long-term relationship, Maggie nonetheless feels ready for motherhood and asks a friend to be the donor. Then, she meets John Harding (Ethan Hawke), a ficto-critical anthropology professor at the college she works, and the two develop a fast friendship, bonding over Maggie's feedback on John's long-brewing, thus-unfinished new novel.

One night, when locked out of his own apartment, John proclaims his love for Maggie and his intention to leave his wife Georgette (Julianne Moore), a tenured professor at Columbia University via Denmark. Maggie's plan has changed. We jump ahead to find Maggie and John married and with a young daughter of their own and partial custody of John and Georgette's two slightly older private-schooled kids.

Initially brought together by a paycheck error, John Harding (Ethan Hawke) and Maggie Harden (Greta Gerwig) end up upending each other's life in "Maggie's Plan."

All seems to be going well, except that John still hasn't finished his novel and Maggie is quickly falling out of love with him. She hatches a new plan to try to reunite John and Georgette, arranging for them, with Georgette's knowledge and reluctant blessing, to run into each other at an anthropology conference in Quebec and see if they can't rekindle the spark.

Miller's fifth feature as director and sixth as screenwriter, Maggie's Plan feels like a female-voiced variation on a Woody Allen romantic comedy, but without the fatigue that comes from Allen's rigid schedule and the baggage of familiarity that comes from his extensive body of work. Maggie's Plan boasts mature, intelligent writing with three-dimensional adult characters who are all painted in shades of gray. It doesn't feel like a boilerplate studio romcom nor an unsteady indie hedging its bets on improvisation and deliberate quirk.

John (Ethan Hawke) and Georgette (Julianne Moore) reconnect while in snowy Quebec for an anthropology conference.

Miller does right by her talented cast by giving them complex characters and arcs as well as the sharp dialogue and plotting needed to watch them grow and evolve. There are no heroes or villains, only human beings trying to follow their hearts and then recalibrate their lives as their feelings change.

In films for Noah Baumbach and Whit Stillman, Gerwig has proven herself to be probably the most compelling actress of her generation
and she has no difficulty at all embodying a leading lady different from others she's played. Hawke appears to be in the midst of a career renaissance with no clear beginning or end. He continues to do a deft job of alternating between studio thrills and indie feels. Moore is slightly saddled by a somewhat outlandish Danish accent, but she narrowly avoids caricature and makes for a multi-faceted third lead. Supporting turns by the likes of Bill Hader and Maya Rudolph also add to the film's plentiful charm.

Warmly received by critics, Maggie's Plan did pretty well in limited theatrical release from Sony Pictures Classics, grossing over $3 million from a peak theater count of 335, easily becoming Miller's highest grossing effort as director. The film hits Blu-ray and DVD this week, the former reviewed here also wielding a digital copy.

Maggie's Plan Blu-ray + Digital cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.85:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Descriptive Video Service, Russian, Thai)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, French, Russian, Thai
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: August 23, 2016
Single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50)
Suggested Retail Price: $30.99
Blue Keepcase with Side Snap in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on DVD ($25.99 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Utilizing nearly every pixel available in 1080p, Maggie's Plan looks great on Blu-ray. The 1.85:1 transfer raises no concerns with its clean and sharp presentation. Likewise, the 5.1 DTS-HD master audio mix distributes dialogue and music without any difficulties.

"Controlling Fate" provides some behind-the-scenes looks at the making of "Maggie's Plan." Supporting players Bill Hader and Maya Rudolph improvise in the outtakes reel.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray's extras begin with an audio commentary by director-screenwriter Rebecca Miller.
It is what you'd expect, intelligent and substantial, but lacking someone else to complement Miller's obviously film-driving vision. Miller shares a lot about what went into telling this story and making the film.

On the video side, where all is encoded in HD, we begin with "Controlling Fate: The Making of Maggie's Plan" (15:52), a fine featurette that explains the origins of the story and how the project took shape, from casting to costuming to filming in New York.

Next up comes a reel of outtakes (7:21), which shows off the adorableness of child actress Ida Rodhatyn interacting with the cast and the heated, seemingly improvised banter of Maya Rudolph and Bill Hader.

Screenwriter-director Rebecca Miller does most of the talking in the Sundance Q & A and all of it in the audio commentary. The Maggie's Plan Blu-ray menu uses some different imagery from the similarly designed cover art.

From last January's Sundance Film Festival, we get the Maggie's Plan cast and crew Q & A (11:29), which sees Rebecca Miller, Greta Gerwig (briefly), Travis Fimmel, and producer Damon Cardasis answering questions from panel host Basil Tsiokos and those in attendance.

Finally, since this is a Sony Pictures Classic release, the film's original theatrical trailer (2:25) is gladly preserved here.

Previews repeats the disc-opening trailers for I Saw the Light, The Bronze, The Meddler, Dark Horse, and Miles Ahead.

The top menu applies score to a static collage of images from the film. As always, Sony authors the Blu-ray to both support bookmarks and resume unfinished playback.

An insert supplying your Digital HD with UltraViolet code accompanies the full-color disc in the slipcovered, side-snapped keepcase.

John Harding (Ethan Hawke) and Maggie Harden (Greta Gerwig) bond over walks and sits in Washington Square Park.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Maggie's Plan is as creative and funny as romantic comedies get. This smart, witty indie succeeds on strong characters brought to life by strong actors. Sony's Blu-ray is fairly standard but good enough to recommend for those who like the film enough to revisit it with any regularity.

Buy Maggie's Plan from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Greta Gerwig: Frances Ha Mistress America Greenberg The Humbling Arthur (2011) To Rome with Love
Ethan Hawke: Boyhood Before Midnight Regression Predestination Good Kill Dead Poets Society Brooklyn's Finest
Julianne Moore: Still Alice What Maisie Knew The English Teacher Chloe Next Vanya on 42nd Street The Hunger Games: Complete 4-Film Collection
New to Disc: The Man Who Knew Infinity The Nice Guys The Bronze A Hologram for the King Last Days in the Desert

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Reviewed August 23, 2016.



Text copyright 2016 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2016 Sony Pictures Classics, Round Films, Rachael Horovitz Production, Freedom Media, Locomotive, Hyperion Media, Franklin Street Capital, Protagonist Pictures and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
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