by George Wolf
Maggie Moore(s) is nestled in a quiet little neighborhood between the Coen Brothers, Taylor Sheridan, and any mid-lfe rom-com. Expect engaging characters getting caught in dangerous games and possible romances, and reacting with clever witticisms, charming flirtatiousness and occasional bursts of violence.
And though the film doesn’t rise to the best of any genre, it patches together enough winning moments for a worthwhile caper-com.
With an opening declaration that “some” of the events actually happened, Paul Bernbaum’s first script since 2007’s Next takes us to a small desert town in Arizona that’s suddenly rocked by two murders in one week.
And both victims are named Maggie Moore. WTF?
Is there a connection between Maggie 1 (Louisa Krause) and Maggie 2 (Mary Holland)?
That’s what Police Chief Sanders (Jon Hamm) and deputy Reddy (Nick Mohammed) aim to find out. And pretty soon they’re finding out that Maggie 2’s husband (Christopher Denham) has a girlfriend (Bobbi Kitten) and a life insurance payout coming, while Maggie 1’s man (Micah Stock) has been passing photos for a pedophile food supplier (Derek Basco) in exchange for cheap and moldy cold cuts for his sub shop.
Oh, and Maggie 1’s neighbor Rita (Tina Fey) says the couple’s fights had recently been escalating.
Director John Slattery (God’s Pocket) exhibits fine juggling skills, giving his Mad Men pal Hamm plenty of room to craft Chief Sanders as the easy-to-root-for heart of the film. He’s a widower who takes a creative writing class at night, and his rebuff of a classmate’s overtures only makes us more hopeful when he and the divorced Rita find reasons to meet.
Of course, it helps that Hamm and Fey are real life buddies, with enough natural chemistry and snappy barbs (Him: “Wash your car.” Her: “Wash your ass!”) to make their time together a treat to watch.
Yes, putting a wannabe romance in the middle of Hell or High Fargo can bring a disjointed feel, but the orbit of distinct characters and cutting dialogue around it never lets the crime-solving grow tiresome.
Don’t look to Maggie Moore(s) for trail blazing or ground breaking, it will come up short. But for an hour-and-a-half of breezy, sometimes messy entertainment, it’s plenty capable.