Big Screen Streaming: Maggie

Big Screen Streaming: Maggie

-Film Reviewed by Roger Market

Maggie is the latest film to capitalize on Hollywood’s obsession with zombies. Despite some imperfections, the movie manages to stand out from the undead crowd. This limited-release is a slow-burning family drama and contains relatively few zombies. Maggie features Arnold Schwarzenegger as viewers have never seen him before—as a devoted father, determined to make his daughter’s last moments as normal, safe, and loving as possible.

Wade Vogel has spent two weeks looking for his teenage daughter, Maggie, who was infected with the zombie virus during a trip to the city. Maggie has been forced to stay in a hospital, but Wade has a doctor friend who helps them escape as long as Wade promises to take Maggie to quarantine when the virus progresses. Wade takes her home to the rural Midwest so she can live out her final days with him and her stepmother Caroline. Maggie is understandably emotional but is also calmer than one might expect. She cries a little but doesn’t let her affliction completely ruin her remaining time with her family.

The ponderous opening sequence is the first indication of the film’s slow pace. Maggie lacks a clear inciting incident, although several moments could qualify: when Wade picks up Maggie from the hospital; when a zombie (one of the few in the movie) attacks Wade at an abandoned gas station on their way home; and when Wade and Maggie finally make it home. Then the stigma of infection rears its ugly head, as the youngest siblings are sent to their aunt’s house for safe-keeping until Maggie dies. Caroline seems terrified of the virus. These moments could all serve as the catalyst that sets the movie in motion, but the third is the most powerful despite its relatively late appearance.

The beginning of Act Two is much clearer and actually quite touching, albeit unsettling. After Maggie falls off a swing and injures her finger, Caroline tries to stitch her up. She quickly realizes that she needs to call a doctor, because Maggie’s injured finger is already rotting and eventually begins to ooze blood. While Caroline is calling the doctor, Maggie decides to cut off her finger. Bleeding and horrified, Maggie runs out of the house to the woods, where she encounters a father and daughter zombie.

Wade takes care of the threat, but now the questions regarding Maggie’s fate are unavoidable. How will she meet her end? Will she have any control over herself? As the movie progresses, Maggie’s body gradually deteriorates, and the viewer learns more details about quarantine and the medical cocktail that’s meant to prolong life as an almost-zombie.

Meanwhile, Maggie spends time with her friends, including her infected and nearly-changed boyfriend, Trent. He’s the only person she knows who understands what she’s going through and who can help her cope. Even after facing direct discrimination from a friend, he shows compassion: “He’s just afraid,” Trent says. Maggie isn’t quite so forgiving. All of this leads to a bittersweet conclusion that, although expected, is both devastating and beautiful.

Abigail Breslin—whose work in the comedy Little Miss Sunshine earned her several award nominations and wins as a young actress—turns in a fine performance as the title character in Maggie. She demonstrates an impressive ability to tap into several emotions at once, from solemn to terrified to indifferent to loving. Schwarzenegger, too, shows range. He’s believable and likable as a conflicted father who wants to spend time with his dying daughter but knows how dangerous she’s becoming. His fear is understated and appears gradually, but it’s there, and it’s compelling. British actress Joely Richardson plays Caroline with a passable American accent, just as she’s done in previous roles. The strength of her performance in Maggie is her ability to connect with and portray a woman under great stress, a woman who wants to see the upside but struggles with the frightening truth of her situation.

Considering that Maggie is currently playing in only 79 theaters, it may be difficult to catch. However, if you can get tickets at a nearby location, give it a shot next weekend. It’s not a bad way to spend 95 minutes. This low-budget movie has some structural issues, but it’s a decent, relatively clean entry in a zombie landscape filled with gore. If you enjoy the tropes of the zombie story but love the realistic appeal of the family drama, Maggie could be just what you’re looking for. And if you simply want to see Schwarzenegger in a new type of role, this is definitely the movie for you.


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