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.
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?