Jul 18

“Maggie’s Plan”? Or Be More Direct?

The richest idea in “Maggie’s Plan” is that a woman who’s so taxed by a demanding mate that she comes to feel increasingly undefined can create an ingenious scenario for freeing herself. You watch Maggie work and think, OK, it’s a plan. David Edelstein, NPR, regarding film Maggie’s Plan

Hypothetical situation (for you, but part of the setup of film Maggie’s Plan): You are a single adult female and want a child, so you try inseminating sperm from an acquaintance. Around the same time you fall in love with a married man. He leaves his wife and has a child with you. After a few years you’re not happy. Do you:

A) Tell him you are not happy and process this together.

B) Consider marriage counseling.

C) Consider a separation or divorce.

D) Reach out to his ex-wife and see if she’ll take him back.

In Rebecca Miller‘s charming Maggie’s Plan, it’s the latter. Maggie (Greta Gerwig), considered by some a “control freak,” marries John (Ethan Hawke), who’d been with Georgette (Julianne Moore) when they met. Friends of Maggie include couple Tony and Felicia (Bill Hader, Maya Rudolph).

The trailer:

Although my non-therapist self went along for the ride and enjoyed it, my therapist self reserves the right to suggest that in real life the A, B, or C responses above might constitute a better plan. On the other hand, my therapist self also knows these same responses are not the road always taken. Not only that, B and C can’t be effectively performed without a well-honed A skill, often lacking.

A: Being Direct

Veering away from directness is a common tendency in emotionally fraught situations. Therapist Joyce Marter (Huffington Post) on the healthier way to go:

Being direct and assertive involves being honest and genuine while remaining appropriate, diplomatic and respectful of yourself and others. It is not passive (being a doormat or a wimp), passive-aggressive (indirect communication, like not returning calls or emails hoping somebody gets the hint) or aggressive (being hostile and rude.)

Reasons to learn how to be more direct include, she says, valuing honesty, integrity, and respect for self and others; it “saves yourself and others time, energy and money”; and it enhances or increases intimacy.

How to be more direct (taken verbatim from Marter’s post):

  • Scan your body and check in with the feelings you are holding inside. Make sure they are congruent with what you are saying. If your feelings are too intense to speak diplomatically, give yourself a “time out” to surf the waves of your feelings before opening your mouth.
  • Before speaking, take Shirdi Sai Baba’s advice and ask yourself first, “Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it true?” This will help you keep your ego in check and stop you from saying destructive things out of anger.
  • Keep it simple. Concise, clear, and brief is always better.
  • Speak in terms of “I” rather than “you” (“I need more physical affection” rather than “You don’t show me enough affection.”)
  • Focus on the behavior, rather than the person (“I need you to let me know when you’re running late because I worry” rather than “You are an insensitive ass.”)
  • Avoid “always” and “never” as they often are embellishments and will weaken your point.
  • Avoid triangulation and becoming triangulated by speaking directly to the source and not putting somebody else or yourself in the middle.
  • Choose to love yourself by saying, “no” as needed. Don’t over promise or over extend.

B: Marriage Counseling

In order to go this route, it has to be suggested by one partner first, of course, which requires direct communication. A couple key things one might strive to get across are ways your relationship could benefit and willingness to do your own changing.

C: Separation Or Divorce

If marriage counseling either doesn’t happen or doesn’t work, one or both partners might want to consider these options, in which case individual therapy can be helpful toward processing this possibility and/or figuring out how to take the needed steps.

Jun 06

“Frances Ha” Comedy/Drama Stumbles Into Adulthood

The new film Frances Ha was written and directed by Noah Baumbach and co-written by its star Greta Gerwig. The two are a real-life couple.

Frances Ha? What does that even mean? No one, including critic Peter Debruge, Variety, is likely to say: “There’s a perfectly good explanation for the pic’s title, but to give it away would spoil the last in a series of organic surprises…”

Here’s what the film website tells us it/she’s about, though:

Frances (Greta Gerwig) lives in New York, but she doesn’t really have an apartment. Frances is an apprentice for a dance company, but she’s not really a dancer. Frances has a best friend named Sophie, but they aren’t really speaking anymore. Frances throws herself headlong into her dreams, even as their possible reality dwindles. Frances wants so much more than she has but lives her life with unaccountable joy and lightness. FRANCES HA is a modern comic fable that explores New York, friendship, class, ambition, failure, and redemption.

Watch the trailer—in black-and-white because the film is—below:

More About Frances

It seems abundantly clear from the reviews that this film is character-driven, not a story with a significant plot.

Christy Lemire, The Huffington Post: “Frances is goofy and guileless, awkward and affectionate but clearly decent-hearted to the core, which only makes her misadventures more agonizing and makes you root harder for her to find true happiness…”

From Richard Brody, The New Yorker: “With her exquisitely touching spontaneity and the spin of verbal and gestural invention with which she inflects the slightest interaction—and despite her embarrassingly impulsive self-revelations and equally awkward deceptions—Frances is an artist whose medium is life itself, and Baumbach, his camera open with calm adoration, channels her waves of wonder and possibility.”

In summation, Eric Kohn, IndieWire: “At times, ‘Frances Ha’ strains from emphasizing the characters’ snarkiness and disregarding plot. By routinely going nowhere, however, the movie eventually finds a distinctive voice that carries it through. To its credit, ‘Frances Ha’ avoids building to a conclusion that might tidy the shrewd depiction of its protagonist’s directionless trajectory. Instead, it lingers in Frances’ terminal uncertainties.”