Monday, 26 August 2013


Strong and impressive modern take on Henry James' 1897 novel of the same name (of which I hadn't heard!).

In New York, Julianne Moore (in blistering form) and Steve Coogan (also good, in a straight role after his recent very funny 'Alan Partridge' film), are the viciously bickering parents of 6 year-old Maisie, who witnesses their sweary squabbles and is understandably confused about her divided loyalties as she's fond of them both. The Court orders her to be shared between them - each of them having other relationships and, after the divorce, neither of them wastes any time in getting married again, each to someone quite a few years younger than themselves.

Moore's mother-figure is a fading rock singer, way past the time of her high appeal, and Coogan plays an art-dealer father, like Moore often away 'on business' and both therefore only able to give limited time to their daughter. It's evident that they both have qualms of conscience but are unable or unwilling to alter their routine to give her more attention. So, it's left to the new spouses to take the lion's share of the caring - and it's clear that each of them separately is much better at that function than Maisie's true father and mother - and she warmly takes to them both.

The 'substitute' parents are Joanna Vanderham and Alexander Skarsgard, both of whom are new names to me. I'd guessed the latter must have been a son of Swedish actor Stellan S. - and a very nice 'bit of rough' he is too, with an endearing smile. She is very good as well. In fact the entire quartet of adults here all play their parts excellently.

And to bind it all together is little Opata Aprile, who could so easily have been portrayed as a twee little child, who is used in the film as the instrument to drag the whole thing down to mawkishness. But co-directors McGehee and Siegel deftly avoid that. I know that it's been avoided because I have a particular aversion to seeing little kids on screen displaying a wisdom way beyond their years. That's not the case here. Maisie doesn't have a great deal to say about the adult relationships, conveying her perplexity at what's going on mainly through silent looks.

I must also mention that Julianne Moore (one of my very favourite actresses) plays her role as someone who has little regard for her appearance - as far as I can see, largely without make-up and almost looking her true age. When it comes to her confrontations the hatred that spews out of her mouth towards her former husband is almost palpable.
A thoroughly convincing and remarkable performance.
A film of fine achievement, and something I wasn't expecting............7.5


  1. Your review and rating of this film pushed me to see it last night. Well done in every way and curiously, not depressing. Excellent performances from Moore and Skarsgard (what a winning smile) and an amazing performance by the little girl.

    I watched this on VOD last night and after the conclusion I thought that it was a pity that this movie didn't get the publicity and recognition that it deserved because nothing blows up in it.

  2. Paul, I'm so pleased that I was in some way instrumental in getting you to see this little gem. As you say it was not depressing, though it could have been. In fact the deeds and attitudes of the little girl's 'substitute' parents were quite uplifting, giving one renewed faith in human nature - by some.
    I agree totally that Moore and Skarsgard were the stand-out performances. And it is indeed a shame that it's been laregly ignored by the big cinema chains. I saw it at our local 'art-house' cinema - where, in fact I see the majority of films.
    By not seeing this one cineastes are missing out on a piece of quality.

  3. hohoho
    after dealing with people's relationship dynamics all day, the last thing I want to do is see TV or movies about relationships. Give me cartoon talking animals any day.

  4. Understood, Dr Spo - but here are individuals who do not seek psychotherapeutic help because they are each fixed in the certainty that their partner is the one in the wrong. I'm sure that in these circumstances, with your own experience to call on, you would have had some constructive suggestions. Or, I suppose, for you films are more to do with escapism.
    Btw: Cartoon animals? - yes, but only if they don't exhibit violence towards one another. ;-)

  5. I'm a fan of Julianne Moore Ray but can't abide Steve Coogan. Mostly because I couldn't abide Alan Partridge. I know that I should be able to separate them, but I can't!
    This sounds excellent though.
    BTW - I LOVED the place beyond the pines! RG was superb as always but so was Bradley Cooper. Despite the "two halfs" of the film, I thought that the story blended beautifully. An excellent film.

  6. Craig: (I hope so much that this isn't your final comment on my blogs.)
    I'm not surprised you're also a fan of Ms Moore. All people with taste must be!

    I find the Alan Partridge character compelling BECAUSE he is so obnoxious and self-opinionated. As I say elsewhere, I'd hate to meet such a person in reality, but distanced by the TV or cinema screen I do think him incredibly fascinating.

    Re Pines: B.C. excellent, R.G. also good - though nowhere near as much 'eye-candy' as the other is. However, I accpet that others think R.G. is at least as hot or even moreso. Yes, a very good film too.

  7. Sounds like a great film, your review has made me want to see it!

  8. It's one that lingers in the mind, A.D., for Julianne Moore's performance above all. So if, like me, you're a fan of hers, it's a double plus.