"What Maisie Knew": Henry James Gets an Update

If you plan to see Scott McGehee and David Siegel's What Maisie Knew, this is your homework: Watch Mark Rappaport's From the Journals of Jean Seberg, a fascinating documentary which will tell you everything you need to know about the Kuleshov Effect. It's the film-editing theory that the emotions on an actor's face — whether they look sad, happy, angry, et cetera — are determined by the images they're intercut with. What Maisie Knew is awash in the Kuleshov Effect, as the emotions of 6-year-old Maisie (Onata Aprile) are largely generated by what the audience surmises she must be feeling as her parents, Susanna (Julianna Moore) and Beale (Steve Goodan), split up, and as they find interesting new ways to neglect Maisie, mostly involving their hastily acquired and almost blindingly white new spouses Margo (Johanna Vanderham) and Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgård, creating a character via slouching and dirty T-shirts). Maisie is a blank slate, and an idealized one at that: a small child who never cries or freaks out as her world is falling apart. (It's also a world in which nobody bats an eye at a small child hanging out in a bar, Child Protective Services does not exist, and everything can be solved at the beach.) So, what did Maisie know? Whatever you think she knew.

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