Saturday, May 9, 2015

Maggie [2015]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB ()  ChicagoTribune () (2 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB () review
ChicagoTribune () review (O. Henderson) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review listing

Maggie [2015] (directed by Henry Hobson, screenplay by John Scott III) surprises.  This is an honestly well-acted and _heartrending_ story of a Midwestern farmer (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger (! ;-) ) watching his beloved oldest, still teenage daughter Marguerite "Maggie" (played by Abigail Breslin) who had been bitten some weeks back by crazed zombies lurking in the shadows "behind a diner" somewhere, slowly, inexorably turn into a zombie herself.  What's A PARENT, and then ALL HER HIGH SCHOOL FRIENDS, to do??  ( A.A. Dowd of the AV Club (review above) suggested that the film could have been called "The Fault in our Scars" ;-) ;-)

The film, in limited release in theaters, is available On Demand and through various Mainstream Streaming Services for a reasonable price.

Some background (of course ;-):  In the story, in the preceding years, there had been a MASSIVE WORLD-WIDE OUTBREAK of a disease that turned those infected into flesh-craving zombies.  After much chaos / social breakdown, the medical authorities WITH HELP OF THE ARMED FORCES were finally "turning the corner" on this horrific plague.  But there were still infected people / zombies all over the place.  And yes, if you found yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time, you could be bitten (thereby infected) OR WORSE (EATEN).  So needless to say, it was an awful time to be alive.

But Maggie and her dad, along with step-mother Caroline (played by Joely Richardson) and two "kid" half-sisters lived out on a farm in the gently rolling fields of the American Midwest, that really should have been (more or less) "safe."  (Apparently, Maggie's mother / her dad's first wife died when Maggie was really young, apparently "merely of cancer ...")

Yes, the effects of the social chaos of the Zombie "plague" could be felt -- electrical power has been off for years (apparently because there were not enough properly trained people alive anymore to keep the power generating station running).  But in terms of providing the basic necessities of life, IF A FARMER couldn't feed his/her family, who could?  SOOO ... until recently, they and most of the other families in this farming community felt more or less safe.

BUT zombies ... "have to eat" too.  And so they had made their way out even to the farm belt, and even as they ate some people, they infected others.  Fairly early in the story after bringing Maggie "home from the hospital" after being told, calmly, dispassionately by a "country doctor" (who still cared for the patients/victims of this terrible zombie disease) the awful news that there was not much that could be done (and that at some point he's going to have to call in the authorities to come to "quarantine" her or PUT HER DOWN himself) Maggie's dad finds that he has to "put down" (shoot) a neighbor and the neighbor's 6 year old daughter who've already become zombies and would otherwise be threatening (the rest of) his family.

Then there's Caroline, the step-mother who's tried "all these years" to treat Maggie "as her own."  And yet, Maggie's slowly TURNING INTO A ZOMBIE (decaying, and starting to "SMELL MEAT" (people as food) everywhere... ;-).  So she sends HER two kids (Maggie's half-sisters) "to grandma" to protect them from Maggie.  (They still talk on the phone ...).  And Caroline, trying to keep composure throughout, is becoming increasingly frightened of Maggie, who she fears will one day ... just come and eat her.

It's a great, if SUPER-heart-rendingly-exaggerated story.  AND THE ACTORS, ALL OF THEM, PLAY IT PERFECTLY STRAIGHT.

So, clearly, this story can't end well ... and someone like me, a Catholic priest after all, has to still raise the question "would there be NO ALTERNATIVES to the OBVIOUS ones proposed?" in dealing with poor Maggie and her zombie infection?  (The Catholic Church ran AIDS hospices all over the world during the worst of the AIDS epidemic ...).

Still, the film's a remarkably sensitive (and honestly interesting) portrayal of a loving father trying to deal with prospect that his beloved oldest daughter is slowly, inexorably turning ... into a flesh-craving zombie ;-)

Franz Kafka [GR] [WCat] [ebook] [Amzn] would be both proud and (perhaps) surprised ;-)

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