Maggie Moore(s): A Murder Mystery with a Twist

Maggie Moore(s): A Murder Mystery with a Twist

Jon Hamm and Tina Fey reunite on screen for a rare chance to see Fey out of her comedic zone. Directed by John Slattery, Hamm’s multi-Emmy-nominated Mad Men co-star, Maggie Moore(s) had its world premiere at the Tribeca Festival Spotlight Narrative section. On paper, the film presents an extremely clever premise for a murder mystery. When one woman named Maggie Moore is found murdered, the man responsible for the hit job, who also happens to be her husband, stumbles upon another woman with the exact same name living just a few blocks away in the same small American town. His thinking is that if Maggie #2 also turns up dead, it could throw off the investigation and put the focus on perhaps a case of mistaken identity in the murder of the first Maggie. Enter police chief Jordan Sanders (Hamm) and his deputy Reddy (Ted Lasso’s Nick Mohammed), who find themselves trying to deal with double murders of women with the same exact name. Even Jessica Fletcher or Lt. Columbo would be intrigued by this mystery.

A Balancing Act

Screenwriter Paul Bernbaum wasn’t interested in just a straight telling of this aspect, but more in exploring the lives, and tentative relationships, of some of the characters on the fringe of the main event. That first and foremost means Jordan, now widowed for over a year, making tentative awkward attempts at another chance at love when he meets Rita Grace (Fey), neighbor of the first Maggie Moore and her husband Jay (Micah Stock). In a Rear Window-ish development, she sees and hears strange things going on at their house, plus some vivid arguments and weird behavior by Jay. She is happy to tell the chief what she knows after finding out about the tragic death of her friend Maggie. Very slowly, a relationship develops for this divorcee, and Jordan makes for a generous subplot to which Slattery and his writer keep returning. Solving the mystery and striking up a romance becomes a real balancing act in terms of tone, with the two story strands eventually colliding. Fortunately for Slattery, he has Hamm and Fey in key roles, and these pros know exactly how to make this work, even when at times the whole soufflé might fall.

Strong Performances

Despite the competing elements not totally coming together, Slattery proves he is just as talented behind the screen as he is in front of it. Hamm has found some pretty nifty roles of late in this kind of character-driven if small movie, like the terrific Confess, Fletch, and another movie that premiered at Tribeca last year, the weirdly offbeat Corner Office. He is an actor capable of anything, big screen or small (witness Top Gun: Maverick), and he has another role here that fits like a glove. He is well-matched with Mohammed, who in just a few scenes creates a deputy/friend who is fully dimensional. Fey doesn’t get to show her dramatic chops as often, but as in 2016’s Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, she proves she has the range here too, and her budding romance with Jordan is touching. They are the key reason to see Maggie Moore(s).

This kind of modest endeavor with a script and fractured characters is interesting enough to keep us engaged for 99 minutes. It is the kind of film Hollywood major studios used to do before tentpole superhero movies sent them to Premium VOD and streaming. Screen Media is the distributor and plans a limited theatrical and simultaneous PVOD release on Friday.

Entertainment

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