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Next on Netflix: Life through Maisie’s eyes

13 April 2014 By Eva Niessner, Staff Writer No Comments

In fairy tales, stepmothers and stepfathers are the cruel or neglectful ones — but in “What Maisie Knew,” they’re the only hope our protagonist has.

Maisie is a bright, lively kindergartener who lives in New York City with her mother, a wild-child musician named Susanna (Julianne Moore), and her art-dealer father, Beale (Steve Coogan).

Though they both love Maisie, they’re more wrapped up in their own lives than involved in hers, and Maisie is often left under the care of someone else.

As their custody battle for Maisie rages on, each of her parents remarry someone younger.

Her father marries her former nanny, Margo (Joanna Vanderham), while her mother gets together with a friend of hers, Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgard).

But her parents are often jealous of and mean to their new partners, and frequently force them to take responsibility for Maisie.

Despite the constant tension, and very good reason to resent the girl, both of Maisie’s new stepparents adore her, and end up being the only people she can rely on.

Though there’s a constant thread of melancholy through the story, it’s ultimately reassuring to know that Maisie has people she can trust and be herself around while she’s going through such a difficult situation.

Her parents use her as a bargaining chip, tell her lies about the other parent and pump her for information.

But her stepparents take her to play outside, pick her up from school and listen to her stories.

The actress who plays Maisie, Onata Aprile, is an absolute joy to watch.

She’s not a smart mouth who talks like an adult or a weepy prop — she’s an interesting, realistic child who reacts to her chaotic life the way a real little girl would.

She clams up around Lincoln when she first meets him, but as he earns her trust, she opens up and wants to show off and play with him.

Aprile doesn’t feel like she’s acting — it’s like she is really Maisie. Keep it up, Onata Aprile, and you’ll be getting your Oscar one day.

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