Maggie Moore(s) [Tribeca Film Festival Review]

Maggie Moore(s) is a quirky crime comedy in the vein of Fargo where a determined law enforcement official tries to track down a not-so-bright criminal. Jon Hamm plays that police official, Chief Sanders. He’s investigating the murders of two different women who both share the name Maggie Moore. Clues seem to point to Jay Moore (Micah Stock), the franchisee of a popular sandwich restaurant. Him hiring someone to kill his wife is logical. The question is whether he had anything to do with the other Maggie, to whom he has no obvious connection. And if he did, why?

Tina Fey co-stars as Rita, Jay and the late Maggie’s nosy next-door neighbor. She sensed something fishy going on with them, and therefore is intensely curious about what Sanders might dig up. She’s a divorcee, he’s a widower, sparks begin to fly. Their occasionally awkward romance plays out as she keeps an eye on Jay and he looks for a link between the Maggies.

We’re intentionally not kept in much suspense with Maggie Moore(s). The beginning of the story depicts the very desperate Jay hiring a deaf hitman named Kosco (Happy Anderson) to murder his wife. We learn how and why Maggie #2 was killed early on, too. Director John Slattery and writer Paul Bernbaum are not interested in making a whodunnit. Instead, they use Jay’s half of the plot to examine his desperate, idiotic decisions. The film has an abundance of dark humor as this guy repeatedly makes things worse for himself by trying to make them better. Micah Stock is extremely funny in the role, expertly capturing the intersection of Jay’s panic and his minimal intelligence.

The Sanders/Rita side is in some ways a mirror. The chief is certainly not going to murder anyone, although his choices in pursuing a romance are, in their own manner, just as misguided. No doubt exists that Sanders will crack the case. Whether he’ll figure out how to make the relationship work is another matter. Hamm nicely conveys the character’s inner confusion, and Fey is terrific as the lonely woman who finds excitement in both the crimes and the cop trying to solve them.

Maggie Moore(s) has a script that amusingly piles on the complications. There’s also a slate of eccentric supporting characters, including the hitman and a ditzy mistress, played by Poser’s Bobbi Kitten in a scene-stealing performance. The film isn’t as incisive or biting as it could have been, but it’s still got a low-key charm that feels refreshing at a time when so many crime movies are trying to out-Tarantino Quentin Tarantino.

Maggie Moore(s) is rated R for language throughout, some sexual material, brief nudity, and drug use. The running time is 1 hour and 39 minutes.