Maggie Moore(s) is a movie that looks great on paper. It’s reunion of longtime Mad Men co-stars Jon Hamm (the leading man) and John Slattery (the director), as well as a re-teaming of 30 Rock co-stars Hamm and Tina Fey. It also has an intriguing premise, as two women who have the same name are murdered in the same town. Unfortunately, the film, which debuted this week at the Tribeca Film Festival and hits theaters Friday, is a disappointment. Maggie Moore(s) is nothing more than a rehash of Fargo, one that can’t overcome its lack of forward plot momentum.
Hamm plays the sheriff of a sleepy small town in Arizona, while his deputy is Nick Mohammad (Nate from Ted Lasso). The tedium’s suddenly pierced by the murder of a woman named Maggie Moore—and then again when a different woman who’s also named Maggie Moore gets killed. Micah Stock plays the Jerry Lundegaard figure, a husband who gets in over his head with a scheme to kidnap his own wife. Instead of Steve Buscemi, he hires a deaf tough guy (Happy Anderson), and instead of a car dealer who falsified the records about the tan Sierra, he's a convenience store owner who’s breaching his franchise agreement by buying off-brand, rancid food.
Meanwhile, the widowed Hamm character has a flirtation with a divorced woman (Fey) who’s gotten nosy about the case. And there’s a bizarre subplot involving illicit pornography that threatens to undermine the stakes of everything else. The plot never gets going, and its cop procedural elements are undermined because we spend a lot of the film watching the cops try to piece together the mystery of murders that we've already seen happen. If you want to see a more satisfying Hamm/Slattery reunion, seek out last year’s Confess, Fletch instead.
Other notable Tribeca films from this year: The Line is a bizarro version of Animal House, played as a straight drama in which the fraternity pledging process is more violent, the Bluto character is a sociopath whose act is wearing thin, and the “zoo fraternity” carries out much worse acts than toga parties or disrupted parades. Directed by Ethan Berger, the film concerns the rot at the heart of the Greek system at a top Southern university, landing the sort of blows that the recent Bama Rush documentary mostly held back. Alex Wolff stars as a veteran brother undergoing a crisis of conscience, while Bo Mitchell plays a much more harmful, 21st-century version of “fat, drunk, and stupid.” The recent Little Mermaid, Halle Bailey, is given little to do as a love interest. But John Malkovich has a fantastic small supporting part as Mitchell’s icy oligarch father, bringing along Denise Richards as his trophy wife.
Chasing Chasing Amy is filmmaker Sav Rodgers’ enjoyable feature documentary examination of Kevin Smith’s 1997 comedy Chasing Amy, the one where bro Ben Affleck romances lesbian Joey Lauren Adams, and finds himself suffering for his own arrogance. It was a movie ahead of its time in many ways, but behind in others, for reasons I remember from bitter dorm room arguments around the time of the film’s release.
The film, which features the friendly participation of every major figure in Chasing Amy with the exception of Affleck, is centered on the reaction to the film of Rodgers, who formerly identified as a lesbian but has since come out as a trans man. Chasing Chasing Amy is at its best when we see Rodgers coming into his own identity over a considerable period of time, while it's at its worst when we’re watching Kevin Smith tell stories that he’s told dozens of times before.
Rather is a career-spanning documentary about newsman Dan Rather. Directed by veteran producer Frank Marshall, it assembles a massive haul of archival footage following about five decades of Rather’s life. The hits are all there, from the Kennedy Assassination to Nixon to George Bush to Saddam Hussein to the “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” incident. It concludes with the now 91-year-old Rather’s recent re-emergence as an unlikely social media star, mostly followed by youngsters who probably couldn’t tell you who currently anchors the CBS Evening News (then again, I couldn’t either).
The film levels with its audience about the scandalous end of Rather’s CBS career, when the actor fronted a segment about George W. Bush’s National Guard service, which was based on what turned out to be fake documents. Unlike the odious 2015 film Truth, which concluded that the documents were bogus but that the reporters and producers who went with the story were heroes anyway, Rather is more honest about what a colossal screw-up that was.