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What Maisie Knew - Film Review

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by Elysia Tsangarides (subscribe)
Writer, editor, marketer, book lover, foodie and believer that life shouldn't be anything but extraordinary.
Published August 14th 2013
When a marriage falls apart, it's the children who lose out
Based on the book by Henry James, originally published in 1897, the themes of What Maisie Knew transfer to the 21st century and the silver screen with ease.

Any person who has experienced divorce knows it's never an easy situation to be in and often greed wins as the children get mixed up in the middle. All too familiar is the case for young Maisie, whose parents' constant one-upping shifts her to the sidelines in their elaborate, selfish custody battle. Maisie's father, Beale (Steven Coogan), marries the young nanny, Margot, prompting her mother, Suzanna (Julianne Moore), to marry bartender Lincoln. And while each wants custody to outdo the other, it appears neither really fits Maisie into their lives, leaving Lincoln and Margot to emerge as the nurturing figures in her life.

The acting was impeccably performed in this heartbreaking story, especially by the central characters. Julianne Moore, who we're used to seeing as a much more delicate, feminine, conservative character, actually pulls off playing an aging rock chick. I was shocked to see her character flow out so easily. The young Onata Aprile is sensational as Maisie, a balance of delicate innocence and strength and a poker face gamblers would kill for. My friend noticed throughout the film Maisie appeared to be wearing shoes that were too big for her and there is much symbolism that can be read through that.

what maisie knew, film, maisie, onata aprile, julianne moore, steven coogan
The gorgeous Onata Aprile in What Maisie Knew
Red Crown Productions / Millennium Entertainment / Madman Entertainment 2013

There were two things I thought didn't quite work in the film and both could probably be written off under the general statement 'well, it's a movie', but for me, they weren't quite believable:

1. Margot and Lincoln's motives in marriage - As the nanny who's watched a nasty marriage turn nastier and a young child neglected by her parents, how on earth could you fall in love with the father and think it would be any different? I guess we could claim that one, as a young woman, blinded by love but for Lincoln, we meet his character in an earlier scene of the movie and he clearly likes Suzanna but why would he agree to jump into the marriage? His character wasn't as well developed as it could have been.

2. Time frame - The movie takes place seemingly over a couple of months. The time frame just seems a bit ridiculous; it would have been better had it been stretched out over a year or so. This seemed to be a deliberate choice as there's no evidence the filmmakers were trying to make it appear as if some time had passed. This meant all of these events seemed to happen a bit too quickly.

Although there are several changes from Henry James' original story, this movie shows in truth that the complexity of relationships and the ugly process of divorce haven't changed much over the ensuing hundred years.

Many thanks to Madman Entertainment and Windsor Twin Cinema for inviting Elysia Tsangarides to a preview screening of What Maisie Knew.
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*Elysia Tsangarides was invited as a guest
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Why? A good film for a rainy day
Where: In cinemas
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