I CAN’T tell you what deviations, if any, writers Nancy Doyne and Carroll Cartwright have taken from the Henry James novel on which directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel built this engrossing film. But I suspect that neither can most audience members.
The adaptation works, a first-class job telling the story of a small girl, perhaps seven years old, coping with the caustic break up of the marriage between her biological parents and its aftermath, also quite unpleasant.
Caustic. Unpleasant. These words establish splendid opportunities for Julianne Moore as Maisie’s mother Susanna, coping with the vicissitudes of singing with a band trying to rise in the charts, and Steve Coogan as Beale, Maisie’s dad, whose work requires him to be often absent from the family’s New York apartment.
The opening passage delivers a savage message about Susanna’s emotional fragility and inability to see beyond her own needs. Her learned-by-rote declarations of love for Maisie scream insincerity. Susanna’s epiphany is a high point in Julianne Moore’s career.
The time-line encompasses Susanna and Beale’s divorce and the relationship between Maisie’s nanny Margo (Joanna Vanderhamm) and bartender Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgaard). As Maisie, Onata Aprile combines maturity with sweet innocence, perfusing the story with delightful warmth to ameliorate our anxiety for the child and also its adults.
At Capitol 6 and Palace Electric