Perhaps a new variation on an emotional, penetrating drama like Kramer Vs. Kramer works hard to upend a terminal wistfulness through the innocence, charm and generosity of spirit of its eponymous 6-year-old heroine.
What Maisie Knew stars Julianne Moore, Steve Coogan, and Alexander Skarsgard, but young Onata Aprile brings an understated precociousness that overcomes what may be contrived mawkishness for some. But, an adult film that can amaze from the way it supports and embraces a child.
From Maisie's standpoint (based on where the camera angles often lie) modern Manhattan (as helmers Scott McGehee and David Siegel instinctively draw from an 1897 Henry James novel) sees many of the grown-ups cut down to size.
There is a custody issue regarding Maisie as neither parent, Moore's narcissistic rocker Susanna with a boyfriend (Skarsgard) and Coogan's immature, truculent executive Beale, really deserves to have her. Dad is settling down with Maisie's affable nanny Margo (Joanna Vanderham) who can be a steady lunch provider.
The situation is a downer for Maisie but her so well-behaved peaceful compassionate nature puts her at least a step above the rest. Yes, the filmmaking indicates more than fairy-tale inklings as her desperate wishes could have an oracle's vision.
Moore, Coogan, and Skarsgard fit adequately into the scribes predilection regarding the wise beyond her years, adaptable Maisie that a resourceful Aprile harnesses to unobtrusive effect. Where What Maisie Knew ultimately goes may not be that surprising as the resiliency of those who'll most likely be impressing themselves on a new generation.
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