- Hans Weber
- December 7, 2023
‘Maggie Moore(s)’ movie review: Jon Hamm excels in lightweight Fargo riff
A small-town chief of police attempts to unravel an increasingly complex series of murders committed by in Maggie Moore(s), which is now available for rent or purchase on Apple TV+, Prime Video, and other streaming services worldwide. This offbeat comedy-drama doesn’t come close to the Coen brothers’ Fargo, which is closely emulates, but it’s still fun enough to warrant a light recommendation.
Maggie Moore(s) was directed by veteran actor John Slattery and features his Mad Men co-star Jon Hamm in the lead role of police chief Jordan Sanders, a lonely widower who oversees a sleepy southwestern town (the location isn’t specified, but Maggie Moore(s) shot in and around Albuquerque, New Mexico).
The film opens with Hamm’s police chief investigating the murder of a woman, with the realization that she shares a name with another victim in an unsolved case from a week ago: they’re the titular Maggie Moores. The premise suggests a killer targeting victims from a phone book a la The Terminator, but the truth is much more convoluted.
Maggie Moore(s) soon flashes back to the events of the previous week, as struggling sandwich shop owner Jay Moore (Micah Stock) attempts to mend things with wife Maggie (Louisa Krause) while obtaining some off-brand products for his franchised restaurant. This lands him in hot water with a pedophile grifter (Derek Basco) and a deaf-mute “fixer” played by Happy Anderson.
The bodies start piling up as Jay attempts to creatively write his way out of his bind, leaving the chief and his deputy (a cynical Nick Mohammed) without many clues as they try to piece together an increasingly complex mystery. Tina Fey appears as Jay’s neighbor and a key witness, who develops an uneasy but appealing relationship with Hamm’s Sanders as the actors rekindle some of their 30 Rock chemistry.
“You don’t know when not to make a joke,” Sanders chastises his deputy, who cracks wise on murder scenes and at other inappropriate times. It’s a problem shared by Maggie Moore(s) itself; the film’s tone feels too light and bubbly during scenes that require more gravitas, and the flippant introduction of key plot elements divorces the movie from its sense of reality.
The template here was Fargo, but Maggie Moore(s) goes for a broader brand of comedy and suffers for it. Slattery’s feature debut, the underrated God’s Pocket starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and John Turturro, had some similar tonal issues, but was generally more successful as it leaned more heavily into dark comedy.
Still, Maggie Moore(s) scores thanks to a stellar central performance from Hamm, captivating in authentic performance despite all the plot artifice that surrounds him. The actor hasn’t found much success as a leading man in features after Mad Men ended its run, but he might have found a comedic calling if his roles here and in Confess, Fletch are any indication.
Fey also has a more fully-realized character than might be expected from the film that surrounds her, and her scenes with Hamm are a clear highlight. The convoluted murder plot that makes up the bulk of the narrative is also engaging, even if it does take itself as seriously as it should. Maggie Moore(s) may not be on the level of the Coen brothers, but as a lightweight streaming option it’s plenty of fun.
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- Hans Weber
- December 7, 2023