What Maisie Knew

For the world premiere Friday at the Toronto International Film Festival of their drama What Maisie Knew, based on the Henry James novel of the same title, directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel played it very calm, even if they felt jitters inside.

The night before the premiere, at an after-party for On the Road, McGehee talked about being nervous because the venue, the Roy Thomson Hall, is so large (about 2,600 seats). He shouldn’t have worried. Quietly down-to-earth, McGehee and Siegel capture the sadly lovely mood of the film, about a pixie-sized wisp of a girl named Maisie, played by now 7-year-old Onata Aprile, who observes with her eyes and ears, more than using words, the terrible relationship between her petulant rocker mom, played by a brunette, tattooed up Julianne Moore, and distracted dad, played by floppy-haired Steve Coogan.

Maisie shows wonder, joy, and fear in her little pale face and big, round eyes, seeing her parents switch to younger, attractive counterparts who eventually care for her more than her mom and dad do. It’s a measured story from a child’s viewpoint. The audience cheered at the end, and fans seemed to gush over Aprile, who wore a little black dress with sparkly silver tights to the premiere.

“It was nothing but a gift to have Onata,” Siegel told “We shot for seven weeks, and she was always amazing, ready to be there.”

While (mostly female) fans by the red carpet shrieked for costar Alexander Skarsgard, who plays Moore’s lover, then husband — one woman kept yelling “I LOVE YOU ALEX” — Moore was met with an equal amount of crowd admiration. Wearing a stunning tight black Alexander McQueen dress with a plunging neckline, she praised the fest and the film. Moore’s character is both loving and completely selfish, a combo of crazy mama bear, smudged eyeliner, and musician talent.

“Toronto’s always a great festival. I love it. I’ve been coming here for years. The first time I came here was for Vanya on 42nd Street, a loooong time ago [mid 1990s]. I work here a lot. It’s a very welcome city,” said Moore. “With the movie, you know, Henry James was very modern. History repeats itself, and he knew how to write about relationships.”

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What Maisie Knew
  • Movie
  • 99 minutes