What Maisie Knew

2013

What Maisie Knew

Critics Consensus

It's undeniably difficult to watch at times, but What Maisie Knew ultimately rises on the strength of its solidly sourced script, powerful performances, and empathetic direction.

86%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 107

80%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 15,254
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Movie Info

A contemporary reimagining of Henry James' novel, WHAT MAISIE KNEW tells the story of a captivating little girl's struggle for grace in the midst of her parents' bitter custody battle. Told through the eyes of the title's heroine, Maisie navigates this ever-widening turmoil with a six-year-old's innocence, charm and generosity of spirit.

Cast

Amelia Campbell
as Ms. Baine
Maddie Corman
as Ms. Fairchild-Tetenbaum
Paddy Croft
as Mrs. Wix
Trevor Long
as Musician #1
Nadia Gan
as Hostess
Samantha Buck
as Zoe's Mother
Anne O'Shea
as Administrator
Malachi Weir
as Manager
Ellen Crown
as Counselor
Zachary Unger
as Freckly Boy
Tr Pescod
as Grey-Haired Guy
Robert Kirk
as Li Locksmith
Nate Lang
as Lawyer
Shobhit Agarwal
as NY Locksmith
Sean Gormley
as Margo's Uncle
Luke Forbes
as Musician on Bus
Stephen Mailer
as Zoe's Father
Harrison Nesbit
as Pizza Delivery Boy
Evangelo Bousis
as Photographer
Bruce Cannon
as Puppeteer 1
Valentine Aprile
as Martin's Mother
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News & Interviews for What Maisie Knew

Critic Reviews for What Maisie Knew

All Critics (107) | Top Critics (36) | Fresh (92) | Rotten (15)

  • A rather sentimental, precious tale, and the important sense of Maisie growing up and learning about the world and its failings doesn't come through.

    Aug 22, 2013 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
  • McGehee and Siegel never find a way to really get inside Maisie's head.

    Aug 22, 2013 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • Sensitive and almost unwatchably perceptive about dysfunctional families -- and it's acted with knife-sharp precision.

    Aug 21, 2013 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Cath Clarke

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • The film is touching, filled with taste and care, but not enough to avoid being coy and sentimental.

    Jun 12, 2013 | Full Review…
  • On the surface, this indie does sound like standard-issue material, but its dynamics are far more complex than its simple exterior.

    Jun 4, 2013 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • What Maisie Knew gives the audience a ground-eye view of its mesmerizing title character, a plucky, charismatic New Yorker who navigates downtown bars and building lobbies with the street savvy of a pro.

    Jun 3, 2013 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for What Maisie Knew

  • May 24, 2014
    Not a bad movie by any means, but really expected something more. With a title like that, I thought there was some huge dark secret to reveal. There's not. What Maisie knows is what it is apparent to the audience pretty much from scene one - her parents are hopeless. That's it. There's no abuse or scandal here. Light drug use is hinted at, but not explored - just two people who shouldn't have been a couple and certainly shouldn't have had a child together. Both parents move on to other partners. It just so happens that the partner Maisie's dad chooses is the nanny hired by her mother. Then both parents behave selfishly and loose their new partners - the two get together and look after Maisie. That's where it gets far fetched and lost me. The child actress who plays Maisie is very good. The adult cast are also effective. The story just could have been so much more than it was.
    Nicki M Super Reviewer
  • Jan 07, 2014
    In what can be described as a contemporary Kramer vs. Kramer, What Maisie Knew is a devastating portrait of the effects of parental dissolution on children. It's a film that is maturely executed, brilliantly acted, and powerfully rendered. The film follows a six-year-old girl, Maisie, as she tries to make sense out of the disarray caused by her parents break-up. The result is a drama that is penetrating in its commentary, poignant in its message, and absolutely captivating. What is most unique about the film, is that the film's narrative point of reference stays almost entirely with Maisie. We see through her eyes, and thus witness the actions and behaviors of those around her with a sort of uncanny innocence. This makes for an extremely authentic study of children caught in the midst of such turmoil. Maisie's growing awareness yet relentless spirit is conveyed throughout. The film captures such family dynamics in a realistic way, which makes the emotional impact very strong, albeit often uncomfortable. The performances also help create an effective character study for all involved. This is true of everyone, especially Onata Aprile, who gives one of the more remarkable child-actor performances in quite some time. Julianne Moore is also notable, turning in a remarkable portrayal as a broken, caring, yet torn mother who can scarcely hide her disdain and insecurity. In the end, we are left with a film that resonates on a deep emotional level, especially for viewers who can relate to the film's bitter insights. Highly recommended. 4.5/5 Stars
    Jeffrey M Super Reviewer
  • Dec 13, 2013
    I don't know about you guys, but this title makes this film sound like a horror flick, or at least it seems that way when it's slapped on the poster, which features the titular little girl just staring fairly eerily at the screen. Well, this may as well be a horror film, as the horror of a bitter separation of the parents is an overwhelmingly terrifying thing for a child to endure... or whatever. I don't really know how brutal of a dysfunctional family film this can be without being totally unfaithful to the 1897 novel, which I'm sure was harsh, but wasn't so hardcore that it featured a rock star in the middle of a divorce. Well, it's just a chick rock star, but still, this is somewhat hardcore drama, and I guess that's why they don't bill Steve Coogan all that high in the cast promotion, because as much as he's established himself to be a dramatic talent, to the point of landing a pretty significant role in a film this brutally dramatic, they wouldn't want you to mistaken this for a comedian. Well, Coogan's more serious roles are generally found pretty low in profile, so I'd imagine anyone who would see this film is aware of Coogan's dramatic acting career, as this is by no means a high-profile project. Yeah, yeah, I know that this film goes so far as to also employ Alexander Skarsgård and Julianne Moore, but after that cameo in "Movie 43", I reckon it's safe to say that Moore just has to be cheap. Well, at least her integrity isn't so dead that she's beneath doing decent dramas that the commercial superficials aren't going to hear a thing about like this one, whose own integrity is still shaken by certain aspects. The film has a few relatively unique aspects, but they can't entirely cover up the familiarity of this subject matter, which is almost blandly recognizable as a family dysfunction drama, and let me tell you, that blandness isn't exactly helped by the dry spells. Now, the film could have been duller, and I was sure expecting it to be that, but all of the meditations upon substance start to devolve into some serious blandness once material runs out, as it often does, what with all of the dragging. While not that long, the film gets to be overlong at times, offering plenty of draggy meditations upon substance that eventually become overemphatic of thematic depth, leading to subtlety lapses. Of course, those subtlety lapses are themselves somewhat subtle, as the film isn't all that bloated, and, as irony would have, that's the final product's biggest issue, because more than anything, storytelling is hurried and undercooked, if not kind of repetitious with all of its jumping from one major plot beat to another. While slow in pacing, the structure of the film is mostly too brisk for its own good, and yet, there was always to be undercooking, as this narrative is told entirely from the point-of-view of the titular child, whose limited understanding of the key conflicts in this tells you only so much about this family dysfunction drama. I suppose this storytelling style is refreshing, but it's also convoluted with its sparse material delivery, which limits resonance that is further limited by familiarity and other pacing problems that seem to never abate, leaving the final product to never quite pick up enough momentum to charge beyond underwhelmingness. The overambitious effort is kind of misguided with its efforts, until reward value is lost, though not so lost that decency isn't recovered, with the help of such subtly fine attributes as tasteful artistic value. I wasn't really expecting this film to be all that strong with its visual style, and, well, it isn't entirely, as Giles Nuttgens' cinematography is not that upstanding, although it is still fairly handsome, with a soft emphasis on certain areas in lighting that add an almost dreamy quality which may reflect the drama's central theme dealing with a juvenile heart caught up in the midst of heavy situations. Arguably more reflective of the film's theme is Nick Urata's score, which is unevenly used in this often dryly quiet film, but still tasteful and clever with its plays with near-adolescent perk, combined with atmospherically hearty, lightly classical elements that prove to be beautiful, as well as complimentary to the core of this very thematic drama about family dysfunction as seen through the eyes of a child. Directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel utilize style fairly tastefully in order to move, not just on an aesthetic level, but with a thoughtfulness that augments the heart of this drama's substance, and when the quieter, less stylish moments of meditativeness kick in, they even draw you in, at least to some degree. Sure, the particularly thoughtful moments in direction are generally kind of blanding, but pacing never slips to truly dull depths, and when material really kicks in, the meditations subtly bite and do a fair bit of justice to the potential of this project. Sure, this modernist interpretation of Henry James' classic dramatic story has not simply become formulaic over the years, but is questionably structured with its handling very layered subject matter with a weight that is limited by a child's point-of-view, and yet, this subject matter remains worthy, with a compelling heart whose execution is faulty, but nevertheless endearing. More endearing than the direction, or at least more consistently endearing, is the acting, as most every member of this admittedly small, but talented cast delivers in their selling different perspectives of very intense subject matter, sometimes to a moving point. If there are resonant moments to this often cold drama, then they are anchored by highlights within some underwritten performance, and while there is ultimately too much missing in storytelling and consistency in inspiration for the final product to win you over as surely as it could have, there is enough inspiration on and off of the screen to engage much more often than not, regardless of limitations. In conclusion, the story is a little too familiar and draggy, perhaps even unsubtle, for its own good, and it's certainly too hurried for its own good, to the point of exacerbating the undercooking that is anchored by the questionable storytelling method of telling this drama from the point-of-view of a lead whose understanding of important subject matter is limited to the point of being instrumental in holding the final product back as underwhelming, but not so underwhelming that tastefully fine cinematography and score work, - utilized fairly well by sometimes effectively meditative direction - and strong acting behind a worthy story aren't enough to make Scott McGehee's and David Siegel's interpretation of "What Maisie Knew" an endearing, if sometimes misguided observation of a child's observation of the destruction of adult relationships around her. 2.5/5 - Fair
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Oct 18, 2013
    This is a heart wrenching story of a precious little girl (brilliantly played by Onata Aprile) caught between her two unbelievably, selfish, divorced parents. Nothing terribly bad, or tragic, happens in this movie. However, my heart was breaking just from watching the confusion, and heartbreak, in this little girl's eyes as she is continually let down by her immature parents. This movie is very slow going, but worth the effort. A rather happy, but bittersweet ending, also.....
    Cynthia S Super Reviewer

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