You will probably be disappointed if you are here for a Mad Men reunion. John Slattery & Jon Hamm, both co-stars of the popular AMC series, are attached to Maggie Moore(s) but will not share the screen together. In fact, Slattery, who helms the directors’ cap for this one,  believes that taking up pages from the Coen brothers’ rule book would make things compelling; seeing how the dependable Hamm would sail them through. Alas! It neither has the razor-sharp whip of a black comedy like ‘Fargo,’ nor the visual chops to lead you to the fuck-up crevices of a small-town mystery. 

In fact, one of its major downfalls comes from its wayward balancing act. At its heart, Maggie Moore(s) is a murder investigation narrative, but it also wants to be a story about two broken people trying to connect. Not gonna lie; when Tina Fey and Hamm are at it, there’s definite chemistry between them. They make their underdeveloped love story feel more content and heartwarming than the bizarre crime story that is so unfocused and blandly executed that you simply zone out. 

The double murders that are at the center of the movie’s narrative are taken up from a real-life incident. The opening claims that most of what we are about to see is based on that true story. Of course, the course run by this investigation, which often runs in circles and leads the police onto a run-of-the-mil distraction, is intriguing. However, the characters that this small-time mystery is able to conjure up are bland, with little to no wit to them. 

A still from Maggie Moore(s).
A still from Maggie Moore(s).

Two women with the same name ‘Maggie Moore’ are killed. The viewer is always aware of the killer – a deaf man living like a recluse watching cartoons super loud. We are also aware of the culprit, a local food chain owner named Jay Moore (Micah Stock), who puts the killer on her wife’s tal just to threaten her, but he ends up killing her. There’s some child pornography plot point that is often brought up but is always vaguely referred to. Jay, who gets involved in all of this, plus the threatening clock of losing his restaurant leads him to slip further. One thing leads to another, and one more Maggie Moore gets killed as a cover-up.

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Since all the cards are always laid down bare on the table, Maggie Moore(s), the movie, doesn’t really feel like an investigative narrative at all. Since we are aware of the culprit and the killer, it instead tries to be more poetic (?) about it by offering us to follow Sheriff Jordan Sanders (Hamm) and Deputy Reddy (Nick Mohammed) as they try to piece it all together. 

Sanders is a character who is introduced as a widower who is not interested in people. In fact, he is not very good with them because a part of him still can’t forget the love he has for his wife. He has enrolled himself in a midnight writing class, but his dates often end up making him feel more distressed than interested. When he meets Fey’s Rita Race, there is chemistry between them; even though the movie never truly establishes why and how, but we revel in these actors loving whatever the have between them.

That leads us to why the movie doesn’t work. Apart from Hamm and Fey, who is introduced as a nosy neighbor to the culprit – Jay, the movie feels tired and uneventful. It does whatever small-town true crime stories often do – set up a premise, introduce a bunch of intentionally over-the-top characters, and let the chaos take you by surprise.

However, Slattery’s direction is pretty by the numbers, and the movie never catches your attention. In fact, it is not until the climax of the film, when an important character suddenly dies, that you are made aware of the stakes for the first time. This is when you actually feel a sense of pulse moving through this movie. If not for that, this had its fate signed as a Video on Demand feature that gets buried within a week of its release. 

Maggie Moore(s) was screened at the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival

Maggie Moore(s) Movie Links – IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes
Maggie Moore(s) Movi Cast – Jon Hamm, Tina Fey, Micah Stock, Bobbi Kitten, Nick Mohammed
Where to watch Maggie Moore(s)

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