Tuesday, 30 July 2013

REVIEW - WHAT MAISIE KNEW


Maisie says she's fine. Maisie says she didn't put the flowers in the closet. Maisie says she doesn't know. But what Maisie knew, and what we know, is that she is lying. This film reminds us of why children learn to lie. The adults around her, making her life decisions on her behalf, finding ways to make their desires appear to be her requirements, do not know. They might, would they only look as closely as we can. There's a simplicity to childhood, a make-do-and-mend resilience that surprises those of us who have forgotten how not to take things so seriously. But, on the other hand, there's a complexity to it too - what to make of these baffling grownups doing bafflingly stupid, harmful things to one another. What Maisie Knew is less about what she knew than what she thought. The seven-year-old actress in every scene of the film, Onata Aprile, is smarter than every other major contributor to this contemporary adaptation of Henry James' 19th Century novel. She divulges those thoughts with us, in every physical inflection, in every bat of her eyelids, in every evasive glance - is she afraid of giving the game away or is she resentful here? Taking things much too seriously, naturally, are those grownups, shuttling her (and us) around like ping pong balls, concerning themselves with whats and whens and wheres and whys. Were it not for Aprile, or an actor of equal skill, we'd be as clueless as they are. Taken as a narrative-driven film, there's little worth in What Maisie Knew, as it is comprised of merely scene after scene of obnoxious fools stumbling around in the dark trying to reach a conclusion we reached within the first five minutes. Thank goodness this has been told from Maisie's perspective. Whether or not the writers, the directors or even the other cast members know it, hers is the only one of any significance to the viewer. After all, the film is called What Maisie Knew.