What Maisie Knew (film)

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What Maisie Knew
What Maisie Knew Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Scott McGehee
David Siegel
Produced by William Teitler
Charles Weinstock
Daniela Taplin Lundberg
Daniel Crown
Written by Nancy Doyne
Carroll Cartwright
Based on What Maisie Knew 
by Henry James
Starring Julianne Moore
Steve Coogan
Onata Aprile
Joanna Vanderham
Alexander Skarsgård
Music by Nick Urata[1]
Cinematography Giles Nuttgens
Edited by Madeleine Gavin
Red Crown Productions
Distributed by Millennium Entertainment
Release dates
  • September 7, 2012 (2012-09-07) (TIFF)
  • May 3, 2013 (2013-05-03)
Running time
99 minutes[2]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $6 million (estimated)[3]
Box office $1,066,471[4]

What Maisie Knew is a 2012 American drama film directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel. It stars Julianne Moore, Alexander Skarsgård, Onata Aprile, Joanna Vanderham and Steve Coogan, and is an adaptation of the Henry James novel What Maisie Knew (1897), about a sensitive daughter of a divorced couple, who are irresponsible parents. The story is updated to modern-day New York City.[5][6]

The film premiered at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival on September 7, 2012.[7]


Susanna is a pushy but seductive rock and roll icon who lives with Beale, a charming, distracted art dealer.

Unnerved by the prospect of middle-aged stasis and each drawn to other lovers, they separate. Maisie, their only child, is caught in the middle, shuttled back and forth between her parents. They each attempt to start life afresh and use new partners, Lincoln and Margo, as a means of competing for custody of Maisie.

Maisie, loving yet quietly precocious and observant, begins to understand how essentially selfish, irresponsible and damaged her parents are, as each of their new relationships quickly disintegrates, and Maisie plays a critical role in constructing a whole new family out of her two step-parents.



When it premiered at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, the film received strong reviews. NPR wrote, "It is rare to see an excellent movie about a child made for adults. [...] I was as invested in Maisie as I've been in any character I've seen at this festival, not just as a cute kid, but as a fully formed person."[8]

Screen International wrote, "A heartbreakingly perceptive illustration of the axiom that when parents get divorced, the ones most affected are the children, What Maisie Knew is a closely observed and deeply emotional drama in which a kind-hearted six-year-old girl only slowly begins to understand the complexity of her mother and father’s dysfunctional relationship.. Guided by a superb cast [...], the latest from directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel wrings tears but does so with a great deal of tenderness and intelligence."[9]

Reel Film Reviews called the film "a progressively heartbreaking piece of work. [...] What Maisie Knew finally manages to establish itself as a heartwrenching look at the impact a fierce custody battle has on the figure at its center, with the unabashedly moving final stretch cementing the film's place as a seriously impressive drama that packs one hell of an emotional punch."[10]

The Hollywood Reporter noted that the "tasteful melodrama benefits from uniformly strong performances. Siegel and McGehee make a strong move back to conventional storytelling after experimenting with Uncertainty".[11] Variety said, "this beautifully observed drama essentially strikes the same sad note for 98 minutes, though with enough sensitivity and emotional variation to make the experience cumulatively heartrending rather than merely aggravating."[12]

Reviews since the film's US release have been consistently strong. Rotten Tomatoes gives a score of 88% based on 102 reviews and marks the film as "Certified Fresh".[13] The New York Times[14] and the Los Angeles Times both gave it rave reviews.[15]

In December 2013, Rex Reed of the The New York Observer placed the film, amongst his annual list of "Best Films of 2013". He found the film, "Hear[t]breaking and real" and giving "brutal but restorative" answers to the question, "How do children cope when they're not a priority?"[16]

Peter Rainer of The Christian Science Monitor also placed the film on his annual "Top 10" list, calling it "the year’s best literary adaptation." [17]

Claudia Puig of USA Today also placed the film among her annual "Top 10".[18]


  1. ^ Jagernauth, Kevin (August 25, 2012). "TIFF Scores: Danny Elfman Takes 'Silver Linings Playbook'; Bright Eyes Players Score 'Writers'; DeVotchKa Tunes Up 'Maisie' & 'Arthur Newman' And More". The Playlist (IndieWire). Retrieved February 13, 2013. 
  2. ^ "WHAT MAISIE KNEW (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 2013-07-08. Retrieved 2013-07-09. 
  3. ^ "What Maisie Knew (2012)". IMDb. Retrieved 2013-12-27. 
  4. ^ "What Maisie Knew (2013)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2013-12-27. 
  5. ^ Kemp, Stuart. "True Blood's Alexander Skarsgard Sinks Teeth Into What Maisie Knew". The Hollywood Reporter. May 11, 2011. Retrieved April 23, 2012.
  6. ^ Philip French (25 August 2013). "What Maisie Knew – review". The Observer. Retrieved 2013-12-27. 
  7. ^ "What Maisie Knew". tiff.net. Retrieved May 3, 2013. 
  8. ^ Holmes, Linda (September 9, 2012). "TIFF '12: A Big Film On Very Small Shoulders In 'What Maisie Knew'". NPR.org. Retrieved May 3, 2013. 
  9. ^ Grierson, Tim (September 8, 2012). "What Maisie Knew". Screen International. Retrieved May 3, 2013. 
  10. ^ Nusair, David. "2012 TIFF Update #6 - What Maisie Knew". Reel Film Reviews. Retrieved May 3, 2013. 
  11. ^ DeFore, John (September 8, 2012). "Toronto Review: What Maisie Knew". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 3, 2013. 
  12. ^ Chang, Justin (September 8, 2012). "Review: "What Maisie Knew"". Variety. Retrieved May 3, 2013. 
  13. ^ What Maisie Knew at Rotten Tomatoes
  14. ^ A. O. Scott (May 2, 2013). "Adult Head Games, Focused on a Child". The New York Times. Retrieved August 20, 2013. 
  15. ^ Sharkey, Betsy (May 16, 2013). "Movie review: 'What Maisie Knew' gives a child's eye view of divorce". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 20, 2013. 
  16. ^ "Rex Reed: The Best Films of 2013". The New York Observer. December 17, 2013. Retrieved 2013-12-27. 
  17. ^ "The 10 best movies of 2013: Our critic's picks". Christian Science Monitor. December 20, 2013. Retrieved 2013-12-27. 
  18. ^ "The year in film: Claudia Puig's top 10". USA Today. December 26, 2013. Retrieved 2013-12-27. 

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