What Maisie Knew (2012)

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Released 20-Dec-2013

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary-Directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel
Deleted Scenes
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2012
Running Time 95:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Scott McGehee
David Siegel

Madman Entertainment
Starring Onata Aprile
Onata Aprile
Steve Coogan
Joanna Vanderham
Alexander Skarsgard
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Nick Urata

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     It seems that not much has changed over the years in the complex world of human relationships - the love we develop and the lengths we go to in order to damage each other when that love has failed. Such is the ease with which the 1897 novel What Maisie Knew has been adapted to modern day New York with the scathing criticism of self-obsessed parents as relevant today as it was when Henry James first put pen to paper.

     The Maisie of the title is a seven-year-old girl (played by Onata Aprile) who becomes the focus of a custody battle, or should I say custody battles, between her two equally unlikable parents. Her mother Susanna (Julianne Moore) is a fairly successful rock star who is at the stage of having to tour to make sure that money keeps rolling in. Her father Beale (Steve Coogan) is a successful art dealer who spends most of his time on the phone negotiating deals.

     Maisie lives with her mother, who observes a somewhat rock 'n' roll lifestyle. Her father visits often and each visit is accompanied by hours of arguing between the parents. When Susanna changes the locks Beale makes an application for joint custody.

     The only person in the mix who seems to relate well to Maisie is Margo (Joanna Vanderham) her Scottish born nanny. Imagine the confusion when Maisie goes to stay with her father and Margo is living at his apartment. Beale has married Margo which gives him an advantage in the custody situation. Not to be outdone Susanna promptly marries her not too bright boyfriend, a barman half her age, Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgard).

     Directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel, What Maisie Knew is an at times painful examination of the effect a dysfunctional relationship can have on the innocent child at the centre. Maisie is always looked after financially, sent to a good school and lives in exclusive apartments in New York and yet her parents use her so often as a tool to attack each other. In fact, the only genuine love for Maisie comes from the two outsiders - Margo and Lincoln.

     The performances are astounding throughout. Newcomer Onata Aprile gives an extraordinary performance as the young girl who unreservedly loves her parents. Her wide-eyed innocence and gentle nature speaks volumes. Julianne Moore is her usual incredible self as Susanna, a thoroughly understandable and unlikable character who loves her daughter deeply but can't bring herself to disengage from the battle with Beale. As the flighty art dealer Steve Coogan puts in another strong dramatic performance. Joanna Vanderham is wonderful as the nanny who becomes a wife who realises that she is just another tool. The revelation may well be Alexander Skarsgard who most will know from his multiple seasons as Erik Northman in True Blood, the swaggering dangerous vampire. Here he plays an entirely different sort. Lincoln is a well-meaning but often slightly thick character who doesn't really understand how to be a father and yet has the human quality to give it a chance.

     What Maisie Knew could have been simply a continuous argument between unlikable people. At times it feels almost more like a horror story as the parents bicker and carry on not realising or perhaps not caring about the damage they are doing to their daughter. The fact that it does not descend into sameness is due to the quality of the acting performances. In less talented hands the film could have been unbearable. As it is this is an exceptional film and one worth checking out on DVD.

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Transfer Quality


     What Maisie Knew comes to DVD in a 2.35:1 transfer consistent with the original cinema aspect ratio. It is 16×9 enhanced.

     The film was shot on 35mm stock and retains its cinematic feel with a slight grain structure present.

     There are subtitles in English for the Hearing Impaired which give a good account of on-screen action.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     What Maisie Knew carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 English audio track running at 448 K/bs. This is perfectly adequate for a film which is heavily reliant on dialogue.

     There are very few surround effects used throughout the film. The sub-woofer is only rarely engaged

     Nevertheless this is a good sound transfer. The dialogue is clear and easy to understand throughout.

     Music is by composer Nick Urata who also created the scores for Crazy, Stupid, Love and Ruby Sparks. He provides a strong but subtle score for this film.

    There are no technical problems with the sound transfer.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


     The DVD of What Maisie Knew DVD has two extras.

Commentary Track

     The two directors talk their way through a wide ranging but interesting commentary track. They feel blessed that Onata Aprile worked out so well allowing them to concentrate the film directly on her. They chat about the challenges of the production and the joy of working in New York (Moore lives across the road from the apartment!) An engaging commentary.

Deleted Scenes

     A series of short deleted scenes are included, one being an extended video section for the song by Susanna (actually a song by The Kills but performed by Moore). They are mostly short and forgettable although one, where Maisie talks to an old gent who is replacing a lock on their house, is quietly poignant.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   The DVD in Region 1 is the same. Buy local.


     What Maisie Knew is a finely performed and directed drama, which veers close to the edge of unbearable at times but never crosses over. The DVD is fine in sound and vision terms and the addition of a commentary track is welcome.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Wednesday, January 08, 2014
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer SC-LX 81 7.1
SpeakersAaron ATS-5 7.1

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