Plot: What’s it about?
Divorce is never a pleasant experience for neither the husband or the wife. It is especially hard on the children however. The parents are played by Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan. Their daughter Maisie (Onata Aprile) is caught in the middle of their custody battle. The film puts Maisie front and center and takes a very welcome empathetic viewpoint. We see things through Maisie’s perspective. Coogan and Moore both get close to the same amount of screen time. Moore plays Susanna, she is a rock and roll icon who is not going to win mother of the year any time soon. She is pushy, curses in front of her child and is overly neglectful. Coogan plays Beale. He is a workaholic and like Susanna, is not the best parent. Both parents do love Maisie, but their interests lie more with bad mouthing the other to Maisie. Beale marries the babysitter Margo (Joanna Vanderham) while Susanna marries Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgard). Both Lincoln and Margo take to Maisie, often looking after her when the parents forget to pick her up from school or get caught up with their own lives. Maisie really takes to both Lincoln and Margo. They essentially resume the parenting responsibilities. Susanna isn’t always happy with this. In fact, there is about one scene too many with her reprimanding Margo or Lincoln for getting too close to her daughter. Susanna often tries to win Maisie’s love by bribing her with a pet turtle or a bunch of toys. A lot of the film rings true because it plays things honestly and with respect to each character.
Judging purely on performances, the film is a success. Newcomer Onata Aprile plays Maisie with an understated sadness. Her eyes tell it all. The character often waits quietly for her mother or father to pick her up, but is often unsure if they even remembered their obligations. At times this is a very tough film to sit through. We are witnessing adults behaving like idiots right in front of their child who gets stuck in the middle of all of it. The New York setting acts as a second character in the film. It is easy to feel alone even in a city as big as New York. The film is well cast, tells a reasonably involving story and for the most part, moves at a quick pace. It is based on the 1897 Henry James novel. Having never read the novel, I can’t compare it to the film. I felt compelled to at least mention it. I am not as in love with it as many of the critics who seemed to adore the film, but I enjoyed it while I was watching it. I don’t see it having strong replay value. It is not something that I am eager to revisit any time in the near future. It is a worthy rental, but a purchase is only for those who have already seen it and wish to own it.
Video: How’s it look?
We get a nearly flawless AVC encoded 2.40:1 HD transfer. The colors here are rich and vivid. I spotted a few marks on some of the actor’s faces. Julianne Moore’s freckles show through in strong detail as well as the tattoo running down her arm. There were no defects or print flaws to speak of. This is a strong transfer that shows great detail in every scene. It will easily please fans of the film.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The Dolby 5.1 True HD track is also strong, if not as flashy as the image. Dialogue is always clear and well understood. It is spread evenly across all channels. This isn’t a particularly busy track, but the background noise in the New York setting does come out strong when needed. We hear various horns honking and cabs driving across the streets and this adds nice detail to the background noise. There are also a few concert scenes that come out loud and clear. This is a solid track to accompany the film.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- An audio commentary track with Co-directors Scott McGeehee and David Siegal. A solid track, the usual notes are covered such as location choices, casting, working with the actors and various other notes. It’s a nice track for those who enjoyed the film.
- Deleted Scenes (7 minutes total) 4 scenes here, but the best word to describe them is unnecessary. Nothing here needed to stay in the film.
- Rounding out the disc is the film’s trailer as well as other previews and a DVD copy of the film.