Love and marriage

Having endured a series of short-lived romantic relationships, Maggie (Greta Gerwig) doesn’t want to get married, but she definitely wants a baby, and a chance encounter – and subsequent whirlwind romance – with John (Ethan Hawke), a married colleague, ends up with her having a baby and being married.

Trouble is, she doesn’t want to be married, and she’s riddled with guilt over breaking up John’s marriage to Georgette (Julianne Moore), a haughty academic who speaks in a vaguely Teutonic accent that’s funny at first but not so much later on.

Based on an original story by Karen Rinaldi, writer/producer/director Rebecca Miller’s Maggie’s Plan is all about how Maggie schemes to reunite John and Georgette.

With its appealing cast, which includes “Saturday Night Live” graduates Bill Hader and Maya Rudolph, and picturesque if familiar New York locations, this comedy of neuroses attempts to be both whimsical and insightful, to offer a fresh slant on contemporary romance and relationships – territory previously mined (numerous times) by Woody Allen, Edward Burns and Gerwig’s frequent collaborator and offscreen beau Noah Baumbach.

Yet Miller succeeds only intermittently, and as a result Maggie’s Plan fails to attain, much less sustain, the necessary level of nimble humor and telling characterization. The scene where John discovers Maggie’s plan and reacts angrily is not the funniest moment, nor is it meant to be, but it’s one of the film’s few genuine moments – one that finally (and belatedly) forces Maggie to step back and realize what she has wrought.

Nevertheless, the film’s coda is no surprise whatsoever. All’s well that ends well. Even the little zinger at the end feels telegraphed well in advance. !