Maggie's Plan

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Maggie's Plan Movie Poster Image
Quirky, talky indie comedy about love, life has some edge.
  • R
  • 2016
  • 108 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

There's a certain lack of commitment among the characters, but ultimately the idea is that even the messiest relationships can find resolution, and while you may not be able to undo your mistakes, you can remedy them. Explores the idea of falling in and out of love with your spouse during a marriage.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Though Maggie's plan is in many ways ill-conceived and insensitive, she herself isn't. She's caring and considerate at heart, if also a bit controlling. Georgette may be a little harsh and distant, but she's got a heart under her severe exterior. John is enthusiastic but needy and self-absorbed.


A few loud arguments.


During a sex scene, a woman's bare back and breast are seen. In another scene, a couple wrestles playfully on a bed, then twitching feet are seen and moans are heard. Also talk of sex, sperm, and insemination (a donor is asked to "produce" on demand -- his results are shown in a cup; a woman uses a syringe to try to inseminate herself).


Frequent use of strong language, including "f--k," "s--t," "hell," "bitch," "ass," "shut up," "screw you," "balls," "t-ts," "Jesus" (as an exclamation).


Characters use iPhones. Scribner (the publisher) and Airbnb are mentioned.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Social drinking (hot whiskey, wine, beer, etc.). A couple hooks up after having too much to drink; another woman drinks too much during a date night.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Maggie's Plan is a quirky, talky comedy about relationships and self-discovery. The material is is too mature for younger teens -- one sex scene includes partial nudity (bare back, breasts), and there's a lot of talk about insemination (including scenes showing a man's "product" in a cup and a woman trying to inseminate herself with a syringe). There's also more talk of sex, social drinking (sometimes too much -- which in one case leads to an extramarital hook-up), as well as frequent strong language ("f--k," "s--t," and more). In any case, the movie's focus on marriage/relationships and parenthood may not be all that appealing to teens, anyway.

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What's the story?

In MAGGIE'S PLAN, Maggie (Greta Gerwig) is a single thirtysomething New Yorker who wants to be a mom more than anything, so she's arranging a sperm donation. Meanwhile, she works in academia, supporting artists by helping them find funding -- and hopefully commercial success. So it's no surprise when she finds herself playing the same role in her personal life to ficto-critical anthropology professor John Harding (Ethan Hawke), who -- despite having earned respect in his field -- longs to publish a novel. John's married-with-children to brilliant Danish professor Georgette (Julianne Moore), but he and Maggie fall in love, have a baby, and, three years later, find themselves in the same rut that undid his first marriage. And now Maggie's not sure that being with John is her destiny after all, so she hatches her titular plan...

Is it any good?

This movie is sometimes maddening and not wholly original (Woody Allen has trodden this path before), but it's funny and fresh in the best ways that an indie comedy can be. Gerwig is key to selling Maggie's Plan's so-wacky-it's-almost-annoying premise; charming and empathetic, her performance is grounded in a genuineness many actresses can't pull off. The entire ensemble performs well, despite some artificial-sounding dialogue from writer-director Rebecca Miller. That said, Miller does manage to capture the narcissism and self-destruction that afflicts even those with the best intentions.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's take on marriage and its ups and downs. Does it seem realistic? How do the different characters view marriage and commitment?

  • Kids play an important role in Maggie's Plan. How do they influence/affect the main characters? How are they a reflection (or not) of what's happening in their parents' lives? Do you think the film presents an accurate view of what it means to be a parent?

  • What does Maggie mean when she says she wants to "live honestly"? Is she a role model? Why or why not? Is anyone else?

  • The movie has a lot of swearing. What role does strong language have in storytelling?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love quirky characters

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