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Yes, No, Maybe So? Greta Gerwig in 'Frances Ha'

Hey lovelies. Beau here with a look at the newest indie darling. 

It’s hard to pin down Noah Baumbach. While most of his nineties peers have vanished from the cinematic landscape or are reaping all the glory on the mountains, he’s that curious anomaly that no one is quite sure what to do with.

Since his resurgence and critical coup in 2005 with The Squid and the Whale, (a coming out party for Jesse Eisenberg post-Rodger Dodger) he’s only made two films in the seven/eight years after. Margot at the Wedding is an enormously divisive picture, but even that couldn’t prepare audiences and critics alike for his follow-up, Greenberg featuring a particularly acidic turn from Ben Stiller. It’s not many films that could inspire such vitriol as to warrant something like this on theater’s windows nationwide. 


Yes, No, Maybe So breakdown after the jump.

So it goes without saying that his next film, Frances Ha, might inspire some trepidation amongst audiences, considering the sour taste that lingers on years later. It does seem, however, that he’s taken the brightest spot of that picture (indeed, the only reason for warranting a rewatch) with Ms. Greta Gerwig.



• Gerwig is a radiant actress, one whose appeal is not defined by her range (limited, as far as we’ve seen) but her willingness to commit to exploring the comedy of life. In the short time since her breakthrough via the much-maligned mumblecore films of the Aughts, she’s done mainstream (the lackluster Arthur remake), throwback horror (Ti West’s lovely The House of the Devil), danced with auteurs (Woody Allen, Walt Whitman) and stole the show from bonafide stars (No Strings Attached). 

• Watching the preview for Frances Ha, the second collaboration between her and Mr. Baumbach (also her current partner-in-crime), I’m struck by how effortless she strolls across the screen. Self-deprecating sans the sullen, her affection for the oblivious Frances endears us to her. Surrounded by talent, (including Girls MVP Adam Driver, who is certainly making a name for himself), the picture looks as much a star vehicle as anything I think I’ve seen in some time.


• Without inviting voracious verbal attacks, Gerwig here has the same appeal that I might imagine Julia Roberts had in Pretty Woman over twenty years ago. It’s not to compare the two in terms of their quality of being, (Gerwig will never be that larger than life; she’s not that kind of star); it’s that one can’t help but surrender any sense of hesitation or cynical thought in their presence.


• In terms of Baumbach’s limited oeuvre, my personal favorite is still the bitter Margot at the Weddding, which featured year’s best performances from Jennifer Jason Leigh and Nicole Kidman. Leigh, in particular, is one who I felt was finally given a new opportunity to shine in Noah’s ode to Eric Rohmer and WASP hives. Her presence there felt free, comfortable to erode, crack. It was a pairing that I likened to Almodovar and Cruz, Bergman and Ullman - two artists who were kind enough to each other to allow them to showcase their faults and flaws. This is less of a "no" than a lingering sadness that it seems unlikely these two fine individuals will ever work together again. 



• Is the black and white trying to draw too much of a comparison to Woody Allen? Beautifully constructed and filmed on a Canon DSLR 5D Mark II (I love the 21st century), one almost wishes that Gerwig (as well as Ms. Dunham) might try to avoid any comparisons between themselves and the famed auteur. Allen has a distinct style all his own that even he tends to imitate, and I’d rather that we see these two women approach their storytelling without needing to pay homage to someone who inspired them, or beat us to the punch in acknowledging his influence. Be your own woman. Be your own artist. You’re both good enough that we don’t care. Steal everything.

Premiering last year at the NYFF to critical acclaim, including right here, Frances Ha and Greta Gerwig arrive on May 17th.

I’ll be there. Dancing.


And you... are you as entranced by Ms. Gerwig as I am or do you find her self-deprication tiring?

Do you find the comparison between her and Roberts warranted, or am I holding up apples and oranges?

Is Adam Driver the next atypical movie star and what do we make of Noah Baumbach?

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Reader Comments (20)

Lol I will never forget when I saw Greenberg in theaters because there was a man next to me with terrible body odor. Anyway. Frances Ha looks cool. We'll see.

March 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew

I can't get into Greta Gerwig because I'm sure Jennifer Jason Leigh hates her.

March 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHayden W

Gerwig's charisma - or lack thereof? - always works for me. And while Baumbach is yet to make my favorite film of any particular year, that potential is there. I look forward to Frances Ha like a Trekkie might Into Darkness. Which I'm also quite excited about, but that's neither here nor there.

March 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDevin D

You've written 'Walt Whitman' when you mean 'Whit Stillman'. (Makes a change from confusing Walt Whitman with Walter White, I suppose.)

March 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterestienne64

I love Greta Gerwig, and Noah Baumbach is capable of greatness. I look forward to 'Frances Ha', and hope that IFC does a good job of marketing it.

March 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike M.

Baumbauch is a personal favorite of mine. I understand why some don't care for him, I really do. However, his sensibilities click with me.

March 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrianZ

Hah! I totally did! Been reading too much 'Leaves of Grass'.

March 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBeau

It's such a star turn by her, she was that good and funny qnd carries the whole thing, i saw this at the Berlin Film festival, and want to see it again nd again.

And I am a j ro fan dating bck to Pretty Woman, so mayb it means something,

March 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBacio

People are going to flip out for this when it finally comes out. Its really fun and lively and energetic and Gerwig is fantastic in it. I wonder if this is really a big change for Baumbach, as many people have claimed - its certainly different than his acidic "burn it all down" trilogy - or just another manifestation of his collaborative spirit, where he's willing to subsume aspects of his filmmaking voice to bring out the qualities of his collaborators. That's the hallmark of his work as Wes Anderson's screenwriting partner back in the 2000s, and it seems like he's headed in that direction with Gerwig, too.

March 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

This ended up being my second favorite film of 2012 behind Tabu. Everybody should go watch it because you'll leave the theatre in a mood unlike any you've ever had after a film. It's so fun and lively. Joy is the one word I'd use to describe it.

March 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmir

I would say NO having seen it, it made me sad, the kind of film that undermines other lovely ones ('The Squid and the Whale,' 'Margot at the Wedding') the filmmaker might have made through its inner assumptions about people. Gerwig is fantastic, but not as great as she was in Greenberg.

March 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSean D

no. awkwardly running down the street and falling over? talking about what she's not doing/supposed to be doing with her life? adam driver? i already watch girls....in colour

March 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterpar3182

I've only seen Squid and was really put off by its seeming contempt for its characters. The director's abrasiveness toward the audience was palpable. Not to mention all the film school cliches littered throughout the script. A total misfire.

March 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

bookesboy, I've felt the same way about Baumbach's other films (even the ones I liked), but I found "Frances" to be uncharacteristically and welcomely warm and generous. There's a lightness of spirit you might respond to as a "Squid" agnostic.

March 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoe Reid

@par: Teehee!

March 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBeau

I'm intrigued by Gerwig and Baumbach. I'll be there (if it plays near me). Greenberg and Damsels in Distress didn't, so I'm not holding my breath on Frances Ha.

March 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

I just watched Damsels In Distress today, which is the only movie I've seen Greta Gerwig in. I was impressed by her performance in it, although I thought the movie was just okay. I'm interested in seeing her other movies, now. Frances Ha looks interesting, although the only Noah Baumbach movie I've seen is The Squid And The Whale. I had trouble getting used to the unlikeable characters in that movie, particularly Jeff Daniels's character. If Frances Ha is a lot like that movie, I don't think I could watch it.

March 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMeghan

Joe, I'll give it a try. Thanks for the tip. I want to see Margot for Nicole. In fact, I'm going to try to track that down this weekend. BTW, love your columns!

March 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I am beyond obsessed with Adam Driver, so that may drag me in, but otherwise I'm not super interested.

March 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

Baumbach is a scourge and a plague: You could take the worst Hollywood Z movie schlock from the 70's that played in a drive-in and it would have more emotional impact that even one second of his Vassar-infected, cerebrally hemorrhaged, literati-tainted wankfests of fifth rate French fried sludge. He makes Henry Jaglom movies look good. It's as if Ed Wood came back from the dead with a Criterion DVD of Rules of The Game and an issue of The New Yorker tucked under his arm. Gerwig's quirky schtick is already way past it's sell-by date and a total bore. He gives Ben Stiller work, which has already guaranteed him a lawnchair in hell.

No wonder the masses watch comic books.


May 6, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteranonymous

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