James’s ‘Maisie’ translates nastily to modern family

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What Maisie Knew

The multiplexes are jammed with movies for children, but how many great films about childhood are there? “What Maisie Knew,” a modern-dress adaptation of an the 1897 Henry James novel, reverses the trend: It’s told entirely from the point of view of a 6-year-old girl (the remarkable Onate Aprile) as she watches her parents’ relationship fall apart.

Can you imagine worse parents than Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan (or at least the characters these actors tend to play)? “What Maisie Knew” is about the erosion of innocence in the midst of plenty, yet it rarely feels heavy-handed, so serene is its own faith in its tiny heroine’s strength. Joanna Vanderham and Alexander Skarsgård costar as two people who’d make better parents than the ones Maisie’s stuck with.

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