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Few do movie magic better than Greta Gerwig.

In “Maggie’s Plan,” Gerwig is Maggie, one of those spirited, independent-minded New Yorkers that Gerwig plays so naturally and so well, from “Frances Ha” to “Mistress America” to “Damsels in Distress.”

Maggie is ready to become a mother, so she turns to an old college friend to inseminate her. At the same time, she meets and falls for John (Ethan Hawke), a “ficto-critical anthropologist” whose marriage to Georgette (Julianne Moore) is falling apart.

Maggie and John marry, but when the romance begins to fade, she masterminds a plan to essentially give John back to Georgette, playing reverse matchmaker in a screwball situation that puts a fresh spin on romantic comedy tropes.

There are shades of Woody Allen and Noah Baumbach in Rebecca Miller and Karen Rinaldi’s clever, laugh-out-loud script, which understands and gives insight into the high and low tides of relationships.

Miller (“Personal Velocity”) directs with steady confidence and gets great mileage out of her cast, which is rounded out by Bill Hader and Maya Rudolph as a lovingly bickering couple who are friends with Maggie and John.

Hawke opens up and plays romantic, wounded, confused, distant and swooning, while Moore is tough, but vulnerable as a thick-accented intellectual. Moore gives many layers to what could have been a caricature of a performance.

But “Maggie’s Plan” is Gerwig’s show, and once again she proves to be one of the screen’s most engaging presences. In a turn of her mouth or a glance from her eye, she can sell a character’s whole state of being, and she always occupies that space between falling apart and pulling things together. Watching her figure things out is one of modern moviedom’s great joys.

agraham@detroitnews.com

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‘Maggie’s Plan’

GRADE: B+

Rated R for language and brief sexuality

Running time: 98 minutes

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