Sunday, October 6, 2013

Early End To An Innocence (Film Review: What Maisie Knew)

When I was in Spain, posters of "What Maisie Knew" were all over the Metro stations, and my first thought was that is the film that I have from Netflix at home. The disc has been sitting, unwatched, since mid August. Apparently, the film had limited distribution stateside in May, and released to video shortly after. Well, I finally saw the movie this afternoon and I ask myself, why did I wait this long? Based on the novel by Henry James from the 1890s, the movie (and the book) essays a story of how a pair of bickering adults affects a child. Played with innocence by Onata April (I don't know why, but this child actor reminds me of the young girl who plays Lily in 'Modern Family') we see the world through the eyes of a child, and we see an early end of an innocence: of she is forced to adapt to the world marred day to day by her parents' selfishness and pride. The action is set in modern-day Manhattan,  and the complexities of her daily life is compounded by her being tossed around from one apartment to another every ten days, as per court order. Her father has shacked up with their live-in nanny, and her mother marries and younger man. She is left most of the time with these two people, and she develops deep affinity for them. At this point in the movie, I was weeping, which was opposed to the irritation I felt for the parents during the first quarter of the movie (I had to stop and pause the disc in irritation a couple of times) Across the board great performances here, but the standout for me was Alexander Skarsgard, who showed sex appeal, vulnerability, and fatherly figure. Julianne Moore, who normally can do no wrong, shows less humanity than normal as a mother with no maternal instincts, but I guess she is just drawing from a character that's slightly underwritten. I am just a little disappointed that this movie did not get a wider audience in its theatrical release, but as a rental, you can really do much much worse.

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