What I'm Watching: Maggie
Okay, okay, I know she's all over these reviews, but let me just review *one* more Abigail Breslin movie for Octoberween. This is the last one, I *swear*.
In a world dealing with its own take on a zombie outbreak, which they call The Turn, a father goes looking for his runaway daughter, only to learn that she's been infected, and only has so much time before she succumbs to the change. This leaves them with only a few choices of what to do with the time she, and the entire family, have left with each other.
I like that this world seems to have things more or less under control, with the infected being rounded up and quarantined for the most part, or just plain taken out, to protect the population. It's a nice take on things, and while it's still a problem, and the world still has its issues, things seem to be moving along okay. Also that the people are mostly fine, until the final stages of the infection, when they become dangerous and bitey. It's a nice metaphor for any number of diseases, and using it as a means to talk about preparing for inevitable death works well.
This is NOT an action or horror movie. Maggie is more interested in dealing with the metaphor of the disease and how that affects the dying and their family, than with y'know, zombies attacking people. It sprinkles a few of those in to keep things lively, but this movie is all about the allegory.
(Also, I know someone will pick the nit that they're not *strictly* zombies, but people who have succumbed to a serious illness but...they're emaciated, they're non-verbal, they're hungry for human flesh, and their mindless. I'm gonna call 'em zombies for the sake of brevity for the rest of this review, deal with it!)
And really, that's the problem right there for me. The zombie veneer is very thin, and really just there to nudge this a tiny step away from the harsh reality of losing a loved one to disease. It's the old trick of using science fiction and horror to talk about difficult subjects, by not *quite* talking about them. It would be a bit harsh to say they did a find and replace on a script with 'cancer' for 'zombie' but it's a step above that, and I think it shows more than they want it to.
The best part of the movie is the acting, Abigail Breslin as the infected titular Maggie is top notch. She's really grown as an actress, and she gives a perfect performance here, trying to come to terms with her imminent demise, and watching it tear apart her family. Even Arnold shows that why yes! he's an actual actor, with talent. Trying to hold himself, the family unit, and his daughter together, and watching it all slip through his fingers is enthralling, and he does it so well.
Breslin is easily the most adorable, cuddliest soon-to-be zombie ever.
"Maggie" does build a very believable world, with how most of the populace deals with the disease, even if they do present it as also having a very dark side, and a bit more brutal than we might like. It's understandable for zombies to not be treated with the utmost of kindness in quarantine. Also, how the infected congregate and group together as their own little support group, since no one can truly understand what they're going through, much like those going through terminal illnesses coming together.
And I am about to get a bit spoilery, so if you want to see how the movie ends on your own, you might want to turn away now...
The movie definitely does not shy away from the darker angle on things, and gets pretty visceral with what Magaggie is going through, as her body slowly betrays her, and the progressing infection slowly taking her over and changing her is done superbly well. Also, it does not present any easy out, or easy answers. There is no sudden magical cure, there is no miraculous recovery. Even the cocktail they use to supposedly take out the Turned in a humane way isn't presented as being THAT great, to the point where a doctor says it would be better to put Maggie down with a shotgun instead. And Maggie's choice at the end of the movie, of course draws parallels to some terminally ill people wanting to end their own life because they just want the pain to stop, or are tired of being a burden on their families.
It also is another look at having someone on the verge of being a zombie taking themselves out, which I always like, because it brings some humanity to the monsters, letting them still have a piece of their old selves, and being able to make that decision for the good of others.
When you say there's a zombie movie starring Arnold, you're setting up certain expectations, and I will admit I do love that the movie plays almost the exact opposite against those expectations. This is not a guns a-blazin' rootin' shootin' zombie movie in the Schwarzenegger style.
All of this probably sounds like I liked, if not loved, this movie but, to be honest...I didn't. It's soooo slow, and is very much the anti-zombie movie. It's quiet, it's thoughtful, it's more interested in the metaphor and the terminal illness aspect than the zombie side of things.
This movie is going to work for a lot of people, they're going to really love the metaphor and how it talks about things by talking around them, but ultimately I found the movie just wasn't for me. Watching it again, I *did* enjoy it more, and I absolutely get why people love it, why people will love it, but it just ultimately was not for me. And if I keep going here, I feel I am in danger of talking myself into liking it. It's well made enough to surpass almost all my complaints about it, which are truly few. It's ultimately a question of style and personal taste not meshing.
It's well made, the acting is above and beyond what you might expect from both a zombie movie and an Arnold movie. It's an interesting take, and a much needed one to be honest, on the whole zombie genre, but they never quite found the balance between the metaphor and the actual story for my tastes.
I almost feel bad for not liking the movie, but I *do* acknowledge it IS a good movie, possibly even a great movie, just not one I've really connected with. If you want a different take on zombies, or want to see Arnold actually get a chance to act, or are looking for a good drama about how some people deal with the inevitability of a terminal illness, than you absolutely should check this out. I definitely recommend the movie. It may not be my sort of movie today, but there's really nothing majorly wrong here, aside from a slow pace, but that's to be expected from something that's more drama than a horror, even with zombies.
This may well be the best, most favourable, nicest review I have ever given to a movie I didn't particularly like!