10 January 2016

Reformulating Love

Scott McGehee and David Siegel's What Maisie Knew eloquently illuminates the farcicality of the childish notion of parental perfection while simultaneously redefining traditional roles for guidance and affection in the all-too-nuclear familial structure.

When Maisie (Onata Aprile) finds out that her parents are separating, her life becomes a growing faultline between her parents, Susanna (Julianne Moore) and Beale (Steve Coogan), with her nouveaux step-parents, Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgård) and Margo (Joanna Vanderham), respectively, as oddly placed lifelines when both of the raging tectonic plates that are her parents either rub against each other or drive away from the area altogether.

As the film progresses, it becomes universally apparent that Maisie's parents, originally bearing the audience's sympathies, are self-centered narcissists, insistent upon custody for a daughter they abandon at their convenience. Thus, each of their new, rapidly chosen spouses must piece together the human remnant of their marriage, caring for Maisie even when logistical complications and unnecessities provide ample reason to ignore her, solely because of their developed love for the daughter of their spouses.

Furthermore, upon both Lincoln's and Margo's realizations of Maisie's parents' ultimately selfish intentions, Lincoln and Margo begin to challenge the previously permeated concept of learned hatred by treating each other like the moral, well-rounded human beings they are. Because Maisie's parents have virtually abandoned her, Lincoln and Margo, her step-parents, nearly cohabit, formulating a new family of three that visits bars, parks, and eventually a cottage on the beach. In every moment of positive communication, their unjustified, predisposed hatred for each other transforms into a beautiful and strikingly simple extramarital love, physically manifested by their spontaneous kiss, even as Maisie watched.

What Maisie Knew demonstrates the profound consequences of possessing two hoggish parents: The inherent importance of marriage as an institution of love fades away as a more natural amorous growth embodies Lincoln and Margo's relationship, and the near idolatry of parents by their children vanishes, as Maisie shifts her pedestal from supporting her birth parents to boosting the two adults in her life who actually love her.

In the end, she opts to remain with those who love her, her uncertain future as shaky as the waves below her. But, with her present all the more beautiful, a healthy pause may, perhaps, be best.

Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgård) and Maisie (Onata Aprile) share a kiddie cocktail at Lincoln's bar, as her birth parents are nowhere to be seen.
Image Courtesy of Millennium Entertainment

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