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What Maisie Knew
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51 of 54 people found the following review helpful
on July 15, 2013
No laws, or social programs, exist to protect children from emotional abuse. In 'What Maisie Knew' the Maisie character is in the center of a collapsing adult world of increasing desperation, where emotional abuse is the final weapon. The story line follows Maisie as the sometimes intended, sometimes accidental, victim as she copes with life.
Excellent acting, casting and directing. The girl who played Maisie is brilliant.
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59 of 68 people found the following review helpful
"What Maisie Knew" (2013 release; 93 min.) brings the story of Susanna (played by Julianne Moore) and Beale (played by Steve Coogan) and their young daughter Maisie (played by newcomer Onata Aprile). As the movie opens we see Susanna, an aging (has-been?) rock singer, and Beale, an arts dealer, arguing frequently and loudly, and in front of Maisie. It doesn't take long before Susanna changes the locks on the front door, and Beale gets his own place. Maisie finds some relief with Margo, the sitter. Susanna and Beale go to court, where Susanna gets denied sole custody, so off goes Maisie between Susanna's place and Beale's place. Maisie is very surprised to find out that Margo has moved in with Beale. At that point we are about 35-40 min. into the movie and to tell you more would surely ruin your viewing pleasure, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Couple of comments: first and foremost, this is a tough child custody drama in which the child sadly becomes the playing ball of selfish adults around her. Quite a bit of the movie deals with missed/forgotten/rescheduled pick-up dates, and eventually the seeming annoyance that Maisie really becomes to both Susanna's and Beal's post-divorce lifestyles, despite the attempts (often botched) by Beale to sound or be nice. At one point Maisie arrives at his house, and he picks her up and smothers her while saying "there is my 6th favorite girl!". Maisie of course immediately asks "who are the other 5 girls?", to which Beale sheepishly mumbles "you wouldn't understand." Maybe not, but surely this kind of exchange will leave marks on this young girl. In fact, besides the young girl itself, there isn't a single likeable lead character in the whole movie, and at a certain point you just want to reach out to the screen and slap these people and shake them up. In that sense, this is a difficult movie to watch, but at the same time, you must give credit to co-writers Nancy Doyne and Carroll Cartwright and co-directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel for creating characters who are not likeable but unfortunately probably very realistic in many real-life divorces. Kudos to young Onata Aprile, who brings a terrific performance as Maisie. As I watched her, I couldn't help but think back to that other divorce-custody drama starring a young child, and that is of course 1979's "Kramer vs. Kramer", starring Justin Henry as the little boy (if memory serves me right, he was nominated for a Supporting Actor Oscar). What a classic that movie was, and still is.

I recently saw "What Maisie Knew" at the Cedar Lee, the art-house theatre in Cleveland, and the screening I was at was not very well attended (and I'm being mild). Given the tone and subject matter of the movie, I just cannot see this reaching a wide audience in theaters. Bottom line, "What Maisie Knew" is not a feel-good movie (for that, check out the recent movie "The Sapphires"), but in my opinion it's still worthwhile checking out, be it in the theatre or on DVD.
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45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
on August 12, 2013
"None of this is your fault." Susanna (Moore) and Beale (Coogan) and going through a bitter and nasty divorce. Stuck in the middle is their 6 year old daughter Maisie. While they focus on their own lives and how to one up the other their new partners are left to care for the little girl. There are some movies that after you watch leave you speechless because words don't do the movie justice. The two for me that come to mind are The Passion Of The Christ and We Need To Talk About Kevin. This is in another category of movie where it leaves you speechless because there are so many things you want to say about it but find it hard to express. The little girl who plays Maisie really steals the movie from Moore and the other big names by portraying a girl with such innocence that you really want nothing but the best for her in the hell she is going through. Besides being a very great movie it will also make you feel different about being a parent and why putting your child's welfare ahead of your own is so important. An example of why everyone should not be allowed to have children. Overall, a must see and important movie that won't get the publicity and recognition it deserves because nothing blows up in it. I give it an A.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
At the heart of this wonderful movie is a young girl, Maisie, played with both heartbreaking vulnerability and understated grace by newcomer Onata Aprile. Even well-written scripts can flounder if a child is miscast in a lead role. Thankfully, that isn't the case here. The rest of the cast is also wonderful, from Julianne Moore (playing Maise's mother, Susanna) to Steve Coogan as Maisie's father, Beale.

I'm wary about describing this film as one which focuses on a couple's break-up and divorce. I saw it as much more than that. The often confusing world of adults, as viewed from Maisie's perspective, left me wanting to shake her parents out of their self-centered life and somehow make them see that their daughter deserved so much more from them. To be truly heard. To be truly seen.

I'm also concerned that my description (so far) may make this seem like a downer of a film. But I didn't find it depressing, at least not a good share of the time. I was heartened to see that strangers could have the insight - and compassion- to create a safe harbor for Maisie and try their best to help her.

Ironically, by showing what Maisie sees and experiences - but without detailed commentary or analysis - her silence and facial expressions speak volumes (possibly even more powerfully than words). She is a child who is simply trying to trust, understand, and make sense of the sudden changes in her life.. So the film's viewers see and hear what she does: her parents' arguments, her joy when visiting a pond full of turtles, her reactions when visiting a home or apartment for the first time.

The filmmakers provide strong counterparts to the stereotypes of cruel stepparents. There are also enough plot twists and suspenseful moments to create a well- paced movie, one which underscores the importance of trying to comprehend events from a child's perspective. Or at least making a serious attempt, in spite of one's own pain.

The final scenes took me by surprise so I won't write much about those. But I will note that Julianne Moore's performance in that concluding section is stellar. In only a few minutes, she conveys anger, confusion, grief, and more....and it is all achingly realistic.

After seeing the film, I am now reading the James novel, What Maisie Knew for extra insight as well as for comparison and contrast between James' perspective and the filmmakers take from a more contemporary viewpoint.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon August 31, 2013
This hard to watch film was actually adapted from a 100+ year old novel by Henry James. Hard to watch, not because of some despicable violent act, but nuanced emotional torture of a 6 year old girl by her self-absorbed parents. Maisie (Onata Aprile) is the reproductive outcome of a union between Susanna (Julianne Moore) Beale (Steve Coogan). They all live together even though Susanna and Beale never married. They do well financially.

Susanna is the lead singer in a still touring rock band. Kind of a stretch for Moore but there aren't any scenes of her actually singing at a concert. Beale is a British business man who is constantly on the phone to someone in the world. Things begin to fall apart between Susanna and Beale to the point that Beale moves out. They are given joint custody but can never seem to coordinate their schedules. This leaves Maisie in the hands of Margo (Joanna Vanderham), an au pair who has had eyes for Beale or Maisie's teachers and eventually Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgard), a bartender who Susanna marries as revenge for Beale's marriage to Margo.

Maisie, becomes a ward of sorts to Margo and Lincoln as they each become targets of Susanna and Beale's self-centered lives. What makes this film a little different is that when Maisie's parents talk with her one on one they seem like normal loving parents. They coddle her, they kiss her, they hug her, and they promise her things. But once that bubble bursts, it is like Maisie is invisible. They argue...loudly and profanely. As if Maisie isn't even in the room. When Susanna "must" get on the tour bus, she hands Maisie off to a doorman. Another time, she arrives early at school to get rid of her. And another day she drops her off at the restaurant where Lincoln works. Only Lincoln isn't working that day. Like I said hard to watch. As time goes on, Lincoln and Margo take over. The ending is appropriately bittersweet.

The Blu ray treatment is excellent. It has a 2.40:1 aspect ratio and a 1080p resolution. The look appears very natural from start to finish. Modest grain give the film a nice quality. Colors look good. Blacks are black. No complaints here. Likewise the audio is very good. Here we have a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless track. This is a dialog centered film, so there isn't much going on in the surrounds except for some ambient street noise as well as some dish and glass chattering in an upscale bar/restaurant. Co-directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel add a commentary track and there are a handful of deleted scenes to complete the extras.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on August 16, 2013
When you're six years old as beautiful and innocent as the rarest passion flower, when you're small and sweeter than honey and the savage adult nature has not touched you, all you want is to laugh, play, run free, and be surrounded by the people you love. I can only imagine what little Maisie must have felt as she endured her love-ones yelling and arguing; ether that or enduring them going off leaving her all the time. Maisies mom Susanna (played by Julianne Moore) is a rocker. She wakes Maisie up one late night and brings her to this bar where her stepdad Lincoln (played by Alexander Skarsgard) works. Susanna had a show to do and wanted Lincoln to look after Maisie for a while, but he wasn't there and the cab with mom inside drove away. Maisie fell asleep and a pretty waitress took her upstairs to bed. A little while after that, Maisie wakes up and finds what seemed to be the same waitress in the next room. The waitress was smoking, she seemed a little tired . Then this big-guy walks in and when Maisie sees him , she asks for her nanny margo (played by Joanna Vanderham) when little Maisie says she wants to go home, the waitress hugs her and puts her back to bed sweet little Maisie begins to cry. When I saw that scene it gutted me like a fish, Maisie had to stay there the whole night. That was one of my favorite scenes. the ending is happier, dear little Maisie finds her grace and finds a bit of peace, and there was this beautiful song, ''Feeling Of Being'' (performed by Lucy Schwartz) the song says so much about Maisie, all that she went through, and it sums up her story. This movie will break your heart and of course make you fall in love with little Onata Aprile AKA Maisie. Please don't pass on this one guys, you have to see it to feel and believe it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 9, 2015
First of all mr. skarsgard is agreat actor. the rest o fthe people and that LITTLE girl ARE FANTASTIC AS WELL !!!! '' the little girl says she loves lincoln (mr. skarsgard) that just makes you melt. heart warming, a must for people to see what kindness and being cruel and forgetful can do to you. you choose which you do in life. this breath taking film i s worth every second you watch it. STOP READING THIS REVIEW, ORDER THE MOVIE WATCH IT.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 17, 2013
This highly emotional movie begins with little Maisie (Onata Aprile) being prophetically sung to, "Rock a Bye Baby" by her misleadingly caring mother Susanna (Julianne Moore) at bedtime. Her tone changes quickly to the tune of a narcissistic woman who is self-absorbed in her touring rock and roll lifestyle with little to no time for her daughter. Her father, Beale (Steve Coogan), is equally toxic with his outright ranting and neglect of his daughter. While they are divorcing and embroiled in a horrible custody battle, they drag their innocent and fragile daughter right through it. The whole story of this painful experience is seen through her eyes, and what wildly expressive eyes this whimsical little girl has.

As her parents are in an all-out custody war at their homes and in the courts, Maisie cannot find any attention, love, or security that remains anywhere which she may count on, not even within her school classroom. Her parents drag her in and out of there, drop her off at the wrong times, forget to pick her up, leave her all alone, and all for their own selfish reasons. They shockingly use her as a pawn to get digs into the other. A 'who do you love more' situation that does not offer much to her in the first place. Her single worded answers to her parents baiting questions about each other could fill whole paragraphs with their delivery. Maisie also has an incredible ability to show a facially flat-affect as easily as joy and laughter while enduring all she does.

Quite succinctly, Beale marries the "Nanny", Margo (Joanna Vanderham), and a spitefully jealous Susanna marries a bartender, Lincoln (an amazing Alexander Skarsgard), who Maisie hasn't met and does not even know yet. These two completely lovely people wind up transcending the despicable parents and offer the unconditional love for Maisie while all three are trapped within the parents constant fighting. The parents scream at one another brutally, violently swearing in front of Maisie while she tiptoes around them. She makes her own food at six years old, gets dressed herself, basically is in charge of parenting her parents at times. As much as Maisie is tossed about, the new spouses are equally being neglected and are falling more and more in love with Maisie; she is always left in their charge. During this fever-pitch which the parents are continually whipping up without respite; Margo and Lincoln, being thoroughly enchanted with Maisie, give us a place to finally exhale. A blossoming relationship is forming between the two out of the mutual love for this adorable child and new found respectful adoration of each other.

Direction (Scott McGehee and David Siegal) of this talented cast is tight while being at a slower more harrowing pace. The soundtrack (Nick Urata) plays in an innocently childlike manner as seen from Maisie's take on her catastrophe. An addition of the costumes (Stacey Battat) adds the appreciated color and liveliness to Maisie with touches of kitty-eared headbands, tutus of tulle, bright colored tights and boots of all types which lift her up and out of the dullness of her parents deathlike state. A standout performance by the young Onata Aprile with her uncanny ability to bleed her own soul through her telltale eyes and keep you fully engaged in the movie.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 27, 2014
What Maisie Knew is both a heart-wrenching and compelling film. The basic plot is a portrayal of the impact that self-absorbed parents have on a darling little girl. Onata Aprile does a great job portraying Maisie, who is too oft left to her own supervision or left waiting for one care giver or another. This is the first movie where I have observed Julianne Moore acting in an unlikable role. She does a good job as a fowl mouthed, ego-centric and vindictive mother who never should have had a child. Her constant smoking around Maisie was driving me crazy! Steve Coogan was in and out of the movie so frequently that it gives us a glimpse of his role as the absentee father. His constant chatting on his cell phone also irritated me! It was fun to see Alexander Skarsgard in a clumsy, dopey, yet likable role as Maisie's stepfather. His best line is said to Susanna ..."You don't deserve her."

This movie is disturbing, but well worth the 98 minutes of viewing time. The conclusion is not a traditional happy-ending, but it gives us some hope.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Having witnessed custody battles between separated or divorced parents of a young child, "What Maisie Knew" was a most compelling story. Julianne Moore plays Suzanna, six-year-old Maisie's (Onata Aprile) mother, an overbearing, falsely-affectionate, and totally selfish woman whose career as a rock star takes precedence over everything else in her life. Her equally selfish father, Beale, played by Steve Coogan, also tries to win Maisie's affection, though in a halfhearted way, as he spends much of his time trying to advance his career in Europe. Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgard) and Margot (Johanna Vanderham), who are briefly married to Suzanna and Beale respectively (but only because the latter think that being married will enhance their chances of having custody of Maisie), are left to pick up the pieces with Maisie, whose parents use them as go-betweens as Maisie is shuffled from one parent to the other.

Not only is the acting superb, but the movie does an excellent job of showing the consequences of a fractured family situation from a young child's perspective. The confusion and bafflement that Maisie suffers is well portrayed, as is her growing wariness, particularly of her mother and father. This movie is definitely worth watching.
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