Jon Hamm has been doing some very cool stuff for the last couple of years — and the smart, sweet, funny Maggie Moore(s) is a perfect example.
This tight, quiet, smart little mystery/comedy/thriller has been knocking around for a few months, but it’s just been added to Hulu, and I hope it finally gets a lot more of the audience it deserves – just like Hamm’s other recent movie, another light comedy-mystery Confess, Fletch, which is hiding over on Showtime and Paramount Plus.
We’ll talk about the Maggie Moore(s) in a minute – but first, let’s talk about Jon Hamm. Jeez, talk about a working actor. Every time you turn around, this charming and funny guy is doing something new. Yeah, yeah, yeah Mad Men … but Mad Men, God help us all, started 15 years ago, and ended almost a decade back… and look at what he’s done since (unike the other Mad Men alumnae layabouts like Christina Hendricks and Elizabeth Moss and John Slattery – yeah, more about Slatery in a minute!).
For one thing, Jon Hamm has gone deep into voice work. Almost immediately after Mad Men, he and Carla Gugino – ah, Carla! — did a dramatic podcast series called American Hostage that not nearly enough people have heard – it’s on Amazon Music, go find it. And good news – it’s slated to be turned into a movie, with Hamm in the starring role. He also did a second all-star-cast audio series, The Big Lie, an Audible Original that I haven’t heard yet. And he kept going. He did voices for everything from Minions to Spongebob Squarepants; my favorite was his performance as Tony Stark in the late, lamented, tragically underrated animated series on FOX, M.O.D.O.K.
For a while it looked like Hamm was almost … tinkering, messin’ around, taking a break after years of Mad Men. But the last couple of years, post-pandemic, he has been everywhere, and he is consistently damn good. (Well, except for Wild Mountain Thyme, but everybody was awfu in that. We shall not speak of it again.)
Then, all of a sudden: boom. A supporting role in Top Gun Maverick; then Confess Fletch and Good Omens and The Morning Show, and premiering this week, an animated series called Grimsburg with an incredible cast – that pest Chrstina Hedricks, and Alan Tudyk, who is a God, and Amy Sedaris, who is a Goddess, and Patton Oswalt – hey. M.O.D.O.K.! — and Rosie Perez. And also just now: the newest season of Fargo. All that in a little over two years.
And right in the middle of it: Maggie Moore(s), with Hamm starring alongside Tina Fey and directed by John Slattery. Yeah – that John Slattery, from Mad Men, who also showed up in Confess, Fletch. It’s almost like they were friends or something.
And one more departure – I know, I know – before we talk just a little about the movie. Check out this thing’s pedigree. Not just Hamm, but Tina Fey, who does a hell of a job here, as a crushed divorcee just trying to get along. I admit, back in the days of Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock, we saw she was a great comedic actress as well as a writer – Mean Girls? I mean, come on. And she created Ted Danson’s sly little comedy Mr. Mayor, that did not get the chance it deserved. But an actress doing actual, you know, roles? Not so much. Except… she was great in the otherwise kind of flat new Hercule Poirot movie from Kenneth Branaugh, A Haunting in Venice, playing a cynical but far from clueless writer. She was equally diabolical as a sinister podcaster in a couple of seasons of Only Murder in the Building, and her role here is nothing like either of those. She’s down to earth, sympathetic – you actually forget she’s Tina Fey — while the connection between her and Hamm? Really great.
Then there’s Slattery as director. Yeah, he directed a few episodes of Mad Men, and some other things, but this is his first work behind the camera in quite a while, but it is so solid and deft, you’d think he’d been doing it for years. Hey, did you know he’s married to Talia Balsam, which means his father-in-law is the late, brilliant character actor Martin Balsma – you know, like Twelve Angry Men, On the Waterfront, TheTaking of Pelham 123, Psycho Martin Balsam? And his mother-in-law is Joyce Van Patten?
And the writer of the original screenplay – take note, not an adaptation, not anybody’s IP – is Paul Bernbaum, one of those quiet, steadily working writers who has been at this a long time. He wrote multiple episodes of just about every action-adventure TV series of the 80’s that you can remember – Starsky and Hutch, 21 Jump Street, Riptide, The A-Team – before he went on to create the Halloweentown series of TV movies that people still go crazy for, even though the first of them premiered more than 30 years ago. And he wrote all of them – all four. No kidding: pedigree, up and down the line.
Given all that experience, all that background, you have a right to expect a solid, smart, well-crafted piece of work. This isn’t groundbreaking, this isn’t Emmy stuff, but this is what we deserve to see out of the networks, as well as Hulu and Amazon and Netflix, all the damn time. And don’t.
Okay. Finally. The movie. Maggie Moore(s) is a murder mystery and a tragicomedy of errors, where there just happen to be two women in the same smallish town both named Maggie Moore, and where one of them – the wrong one – gets murdered by a lay hitman, working for the other Maggie Morore’s husband. Jon Hamm is the police chief of this town who may not take himself very seriously, but is dead serious about the case. He works with an odd and intriguing collection of locals – including colleagues, suspects, witnesses, and the aforementioned Tina Fey – to solve the crime and to make sure that a whole lot of other people don’t get murdered before he does so. It’s funny It’s clever. It’s even warm. And really: you could sit and watch Jon and Tina for hours, just hanging out in the diner and talking.
Like Confess, Fletch, I’m reminded of the many many great “light mystery” books by guys iike Donald Westlake and Gregory McDonald, both sadly passed now – that would (and often did) make terrific movies. And obviously, Jon Hamm knows, too; Confess, Fletch came from the late Gregory Mcdonald himself. Maggie Moore(s), like much of Westlake or Mcdonald’s work, is an engaging, almost charming story of interesting people getting involved in surprisingly complicated case that don’t always end well… and rarely end the way you’d expect. Really, this one’s worth seeking out and spending an evening with.
Meanwhile… keep watching Jon Hamm. I don’t know what’s going on with that guy, but even though he’s a couple of decades in, he just seems to be getting started. And of course that means we have to go watch Fargo and Grimsburg, too …