Somewhere lurking in the background of writer/director Rebecca Miller’s movie is a more openly acidic portrait of a certain brand of contemporary New Yorker, but it’s repeatedly smacked down by a whimsical tone. The high-concept premise finds 30-something academic Maggie (Greta Gerwig) making the oh-so-modern decision to have a baby on her own via artificial insemination, which coincides inconveniently with her budding relationship with a married writer (Ethan Hawke). Miller seasons her story with great background details—a girl hula-hooping on a cell phone conversation; a Shakespearean busker in the park—that establishes a world of hyper-literate eccentrics seemingly unaware of how bizarre they would seem to the rest of the world. That might have made for great subtext as the romantic roundelays ensue—including a Teutonically-accented Julianne Moore as Hawke’s wife—yet there’s no real attempt to skewer their self-absorption. And considering how infrequent the actual punch lines are, aside from the too-rare moments featuring Bill Hader as Maggie’s best pal, it’s not funny enough to make up for the fact that Miller seemingly wants us to see them all as charming, rather than kind of pathetic.
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