What Maisie Knew
What I didn’t know is that this is based on an 1897 novel by Henry James. Not that it would have made any difference, but it is surprising. It has been updated to the modern day, and I guess the lesson is that a hundred years ago, divorcing parents could be as narcissistic, selfish, heedless, and just as generally fucked-up as they often are today.
Julianne Moore is a mid-level rock singer. Making a very good living (judging by her fabulous, huge apartment in a good New York neighborhood), but no Madonna. Steve Coogan is in some sort of vague business that keeps him on the phone or on an airplane much of the time. Their marriage is over, and they are in a vicious fight over who should get custody of their six-year-old, played by Onata Aprile. (Who may or may not become a grown-up actress, but who is guaranteed a lot of child roles. She already has seven credits, with two movies in production. She is simply terrific.)
I have seldom seen two characters in a movie that I loathed, hated, and despised as much as these. Both profess to love Maisie, and neither of them really has much time for the demanding little munchkin. I mean, you have to be there to pick her up after school. Stuff like that. How are they to get on with their careers when they have to interrupt themselves all the time for piddling little tasks like that? They have a much younger nanny (Johanna Vanderham), but she seems to be part of the problem, since as soon as the divorce is final the scumbag husband marries her. Every time Julianne sees Maisie she picks her up and hugs her and showers her with kisses and croons about how much she loves the kid. I wanted to throw up. She would show the same affection for a puppy.
Things go from just bad to appalling. Julianne marries a much younger bartender (Alexander Skarsgård). Gradually, the two birth parents rely more and more on their spouses to take care of the inconvenient little brat. Eventually Daddy alienates his new wife and decides to take a job back in England. He briefly considers taking Maisie with him, even starts proposing it to her … and you can see it happening in his face as he adds it up, and Maisie comes out lacking in his new life. He’s in a cab, and he’s outta there. Mommy finally drops the kid off at the bar … and can’t even be bothered to get out of the cab and see if her new husband is actually there. Which he is not. Maisie ends up with a sympathetic waitress. I mean, the fucking kid is abandoned.
We end with a tentative positive note, with Mommy seeming to realize that she is unable to care for the kid; she leaves her with the nanny and the bartender at a beach house. I was happy for the kid … but I also know that her worthless bitch of a mother is likely to demand the kid back and start the cycle of neglect all over again when her road tour is over.