Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Maggie Moore(s)

Anyone who happens to be named “Maggie Moore” will probably get some ribbing over this film during the next few days. Fortunately for them, it will then be largely forgotten. In the movie, two unfortunate women with that name happen to get murdered days apart. Like viewers, Police Chief Jordan Sanders believes it is too coincidental to be a coincidence in John Slattery’s Maggie Moore(s), which releases this Friday in theaters and on VOD.

The first Maggie Moore we see die is actually Maggie Moore #2, in the awkward and unnecessary in media res prologue, before Slattery shows us Maggie Moore #1. She had the great misfortune to discover her husband Jay has unknowingly traded manila envelopes full of explicit under-age sexual material to Tommy T, in exchange for expired food to serve at his failing sub shop (maybe “Jared from Subway” is a customer). Right off the bat, you might have an inkling Slattery and screenwriter Paul Bernbaum have trouble finding the right vibe for their extremely dark material.

Even though Jay Moore apparently did not know what he was passing along, Maggie Moore #1 still understandably freaks, so Tommy T puts him in touch with Kosco, a deaf hired thug, to “handle” her. To Jay M’s partial “surprise,” he handles her permanently. Through a mildly odd chain of events, the newly widowed Moore happens to know there is another Maggie Moore in town, which gets him thinking. That will mean more work for Sanders, but at least this case introduces him to Maggie Moore #1’s next-door-neighbor, Rita Grace. She is a nosy divorcee. He is a sensitive widower. They could be perfect together, if neither of them sabotages it—but that’s unlikely.

Maggie Moore(s)
(just try writing a review of this film without accidentally calling it Maggie May(s), six or eight times) could have been a slyly amusing film, but Bernbaum needed ten or twelve further drafts to iron out all the kinks. Instead, this film will leave viewers baffled, with a severe case of whiplash from the tonal shifts. One minute, it is a genial rom-com about middle-aged misfits taking a second chance at love. Then, suddenly, innocent people are getting viciously murdered over packets of illegal pornography.

Jon Hamm is surprisingly down-to-earth and endearing as the smart and sad Sanders. His buddy-cop banter with Nick Muhammad as Deputy Reddy is also quite amusing. Hamm even has decent romantic chemistry with Tina Fey’s Grace, but her comedic delivery is flat and off-rhythm. Frankly, you wouldn’t think comedy was her thing from watching
Maggie Moore(s).

The basic premise that the happenstance of namesake-ness could lead to criminal chaos holds a lot of intriguing potential, but it veers wildly astray in
Maggie Moore(s). At some point, the editor should have told Slattery he has two or three movies fighting it out, like split personalities in a traumatized mind. It just doesn’t work. Not recommended, Maggie Moores(s) opens this Friday (6/16) in New York, at the Quad, and releases on VOD.