Torn be­tween two lovers

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - MOVIES -

SU­SAN­NAH (Ju­lianne Moore) and Beale (Steve Coogan) are New York­ers go­ing through a vit­ri­olic break up, as wit­nessed by their young daugh­ter Maisie (Onata Aprile) in What Maisie Knew.

Maisie’s mother is an age­ing rock star try­ing to stage a come­back. Her dad is an art dealer who trav­els con­stantly.

Each fights bit­terly for cus­tody, but nei­ther has much time for their child. So Maisie finds her­self bounced back and forth be­tween them and their re­spec­tive new part­ners, played by Alexan­der Skars­gard and Joanna Van­der­ham.

Henry James wrote the novel What Maisie Knew in 1897 when di­vorce was a rel­a­tively new con­cept.

Its dev­as­tat­ing im­pact on chil­dren hasn’t changed and gets an af­fect­ing mod­ern-day treat­ment in this film by writer-di­rec­tors Scott McGe­hee and David Siegel ( The Deep End).

The gim­mick is that we see the ac­tion through Maisie’s field of per­cep­tion: snip­pets of con­ver­sa­tion as adults bus­tle in and out of rooms scream­ing at their lawyers on mo­bile phones.

Clearly, this is po­ten­tially melo­dra­matic stuff and the film­mak­ers have wisely cast a child who does not make any ob­vi­ous grabs for the heart­strings.

Aprile’s Maisie keeps her calm while the adults around her be­have like chil­dren.

She’s shut­tled at 10-day in­ter­views be­tween the lux­u­ri­ous Man­hat­tan res­i­dences of her war­ring par­ents, who never hes­i­tate to bad-mouth each other.

Coogan is in his el­e­ment play­ing a self-in­ter­ested charmer and Moore is par­tic­u­larly good as a jeal­ous woman des­per­ate for her child’s af­fec­tion, but too self­ish and petty to pro­vide her with a se­cure home life.

By con­trast, Skars­gard ( True Blood) is deeply sym­pa­thetic as her new boyfriend, a young bar­tender who proves that ac­tions speak louder than words when it comes to loving and rais­ing chil­dren.

Maisie bonds with her car­ing step par­ents, but is left in the lurch when th­ese hasty mar­riages crum­ble.

Af­fect­ing, alarm­ing and well-acted, What Maisie Knew makes great use of its New York lo­ca­tions.

What Maisie Knew opens to­day.

Onata Aprile, as Maisie, with co-stars Alexan­der Skars­gard (above) and Ju­lianne Moore (left)

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