Ethan Hawke and Greta Gerwig take an adulterous walk in “Maggie’s Plan.” (Sony Pictures Classics)

“You think of a controlling person as a selfish person,” says Rebecca Miller, the writer-director of “Maggie’s Plan,” “but it’s not necessarily the same thing at all.”

Take Maggie, the titular planner played by Greta Gerwig. In the film, out Friday, Maggie meets John (Ethan Hawke), an aspiring novelist who feels underappreciated in his marriage to Georgette (Julianne Moore). Soon, Maggie starts an affair with John, who leaves his wife to marry her.

“It’s not necessarily that she’s looking for control for her own gain,” Miller says of Maggie. “She thinks, ‘I can fix him, I can help him write a great novel.’ And then all of the sudden there she is, really signed on, and she’s spending all her time working and making life possible for John and taking care of his kids.”
After Maggie realizes that married life with John is not going to plan, she decides the best thing to do is to reunite him with his ex. “I hate waste,” Maggie explains, figuring that recycling a decent man like John is better than just tossing him.

“Her logic is ethically motivated,” Miller says. “She’s really telling the truth that is sort of oddly logical, even though it goes against all of our social norms.”

The shifting of those norms is, for Miller, a central theme of the film. “Partly, this movie is about our particular modern confusion,” she says. “The rule book has been thrown out. There are all sorts of different ways of having a family and what family is. In a sense, the movie comes from a standpoint of not judging, but saying, ‘Here we are. This is us.’ ”

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