What Maisie Knew, 2012


{Theatrical Release Poster}

A mother and her husband fight over the custody of their young daughter while she attempts to understand what is going on with her parents.

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this film mostly because I liked how the writer tricked me.

Early on in the film the viewer chose sides forcing us to be committed to the film. Everyone was on the mother’s side. The first thing we see and hear in the film is Susanna having a tender moment with her daughter singing a lullaby. Susanna and Beale (Maisie’s father) argue viciously, and in the end Maisie is the responsibility of her nanny Margo. The moment Beale flirts with Margo after fighting with Susanna everyone hates him. Everyone is on Susanna’s side especially when she acts irrationally by locking Beale out of the house, and discovers Beale trying to sneakily take Maisie out of school. We realize something is wrong at the sleepover when Susanna has over friends who are drinking and smoking around children, and then when she is force feeding information to Maisie about her father physically abused her. We suddenly realize that Maisie is a pawn for Susanna. We shift to the father once he is awarded joint custody.

Maise goes to stay with her father and discovers Margo has moved in with Beale. After Beale marries Margo, Susanna marries Lincoln a young bartender. While Maisie stays with her father, the audience attempts to connect with the father to find some good in him but he too is using Maisie like a pawn. Both parents extract information from Maisie about the other parent and throw her off to the other when their time with her is over, instead of relishing in the extra time they have gained.

The only likeable characters were Lincoln and Margo, people we are supposed to dislike due to their association with Susanna and Beale. At this point in the film, a nagging voice that was not so much in my head but more next to me predicted “that kid is going to live with Margo and Lincoln. How much do you want to bet?” And the voice was correct. I was now more interested in Margo and Lincoln’s relationship since it was such a huge contrast to Susanna and Beale’s. I hoped that Maisie could be happy with them.

What was tricky is that everything was only told through Maisie’s perspective. We had to gain loyalty to the mother and the father through her, and also see their shortcomings. We only every knew what Maisie saw or heard. It is a fun obstruction for a screenwriter: no voiceover, no monologues, only observations through sight and sound from a six-year-olds perspective.

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