May 08

“What Maisie Knew” Will Require Some Therapy Someday

What Maisie Knew is a film adaptation of a Henry James novel updated to a contemporary setting. Neither mothers nor fathers, however, are at all idealized.

A Very Brief Summary of What Maisie Knew

From the eyes of a six-year-old girl, Maisie’s parents’ relationship disintegrates. They remarry, they inappropriately place her in the middle of their issues, they leave most of the subsequent caretaking to their new spouses.

The Child

Linda Holmes, NPR: “There’s no mugging and no sobbing; she is heartbreaking because she is transparently processing the fact that while her parents are willing to fight over her, they will not in fact choose her, over either their other interests or their conflict.”

Justin Chang, Variety: “Scribes Carroll Cartwright and Nancy Doyne approximate the intimate child’s perspective James achieved on the page by placing Maisie (Aprile) in every scene, continually reminding the viewer of the invisible trauma being inflicted by two thoughtless individuals on the person most deserving of their care and attention.”

There’s Therapy in Maisie’s Future

Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly: “She might as well be invisible, but she hears everything. And here’s the only good news: Onata Aprile, the young actress who plays the adorable moppet trapped in this bitter custody tug-of-war, is heartbreakingly good. All you have to do is take one look into her wide, sad eyes to know she’s internalizing all the vicious white noise. You also suspect that she’s going to spend most of her teenage years in marathon therapy sessions.”

The Parents of What Maisie Knew

Justin Chang, Variety: “…(H)er parents, fiery-tempered rock musician Susanna (Julianne Moore) and perpetually distracted art dealer Beale (Steve Coogan), have divorced, leaving their soft-spoken, well-behaved daughter to drift between their respective Manhattan apartments. Each parent wants custody for all the wrong reasons, as it soon becomes infuriatingly clear that, despite their superficial expressions of affection, they’re more interested in using Maisie as a weapon against each other than in serving her best interests.”

The Dad

Sheila O’Malleyrogerebert.com: “Steve Coogan, in his few scenes, is terrifying. It’s a great portrayal of unfettered narcissism. He has one moment, in the back of a cab, saying goodbye to Maisie, that is as good as anything he has ever done. For just a moment, you see him understand, and actually feel, his own terrible nature.”

The Mom

Justin Chang, Variety: “It’s Susanna, trying to convince Maisie and herself that she’s a good mother, who arguably winds up doing the greater damage, and Moore acts with a white-hot fury that sends waves of resentment and self-pity flying in all directions.”

The New Spouses

Rex Reed, New York Observer:

…Susanna’s new husband is a sweet, sensitive bartender named Lincoln (versatile, appealing Alexander Skarsgård) who shows Maisie the kind of sincere compassion she never had from her own dad, and Beale runs away with the nanny, a kind-hearted girl named Margo (Joanna Vanderham) whose maternal instincts seem genuine instead of the phony play-acting Maisie gets from her real mother. At first, these replacements fill tertiary positions, but eventually they do something Maisie has never experienced—they become real friendsOne of the things Maisie learns is that loneliness is not restricted to only one age, gender or legal document. Both Lincoln and Margo are neglected and unloved. Maisie has always been the one left out of the equation, the lockbox where the grownups deposit their fears, tears and anxieties. Surprisingly, it is now up to a child to make the adults feel wanted. Unwillingly, they eventually become playmates, guardians and surrogate parents to the little girl who needs them, and the two most unconditionally devoted people Maisie knows are the two people who have landed in her life by accident.

May 11

“The Kids Are All Right”: And the Moms Are Lesbians

The true experiences of Zach Wahls (see yesterday’s post) may be reminiscent to some of the recent dramedy directed by Lisa CholodenkoThe Kids Are All Right (2010). It stars Annette Bening and Julianne Moore as a lesbian couple, Nic and Jules, who have two teenagers who were conceived with the aid of an anonymous sperm donor.

Like many parents—of any sexual orientation—Nic and Jules do not have a perfect relationship. And it really teeters on the edge when they actually meet the sperm donor, Paul (Mark Ruffalo), who’s been found by the kids.

Lisa Kennedy, Denver Post: “Cholodenko and cowriter Stuart Blumberg have crafted a loving work about family that will resonate as true for those who find their experience reflected on the big screen and will be revelatory to others.”

The trailer for The Kids Are All Right includes snippets of interviews with the cast about this unique story:

 

A.O. Scott, New York Times: “The performances are all close to perfect, which is to say that the imperfections of each character are precisely measured and honestly presented.”

Dr. Ellen Weber Libby, psychologist: “…captures, with respect and sensitivity, the hard work required to keep marriages alive, to raise children, and for both children and adults to meet life’s challenges.”

Don’t let this element escape you: the kids in this family have in fact turned out all right. And research backs this up. As reported by The Huffington Post, “In a 2010 review of virtually every study on gay parenting, New York University sociologist Judith Stacey and University of Southern California sociologist Tim Biblarz found no differences between children raised in homes with two heterosexual parents and children raised with lesbian parents.”