Noah Baumbach's Frances Ha, which he co-wrote with its star Greta Gerwig, is the kind of movie that could become a cult classic. Not because it's packed with gore or because it heralds the appearance of a new tranny-to-watch, but because it's just so damn likable and packed with chutzpah. A huge part of the immense personality of the Squid and the Whale director's sixth feature is shining right from the eyes of Greta Gerwig, who is (justifiably) having a moment right now. In glowing black and white, Frances shares the story of a 27-year old dancer floundering as she tries to make a life for herself in present-day New York City. Between this film and Lena Dunham's runaway hit Girls, anyone currently planning to move has a reason to take pause--things are not as easy in the Big Apple as they appear!
Since we seem to get everything a bit late these days in San Francisco, you might have already seen Greta profiled The New Yorker, or The New York Times, or …New York Magazine, but the truth is we had her first, at least for those lucky enough to see the film make it's SF debut at the San Francisco International last month. We grabbed some of her most revealing answers from a chat after the film:
Gerwig on what she liked best about making Frances Ha:
I have to say, I loved making this movie, it was sort of the pinnacle of any moviemaking experience for me. As we were writing it, I had the experience--I'd never written anything like this--I had the experience of having to cut things that I thought were really good. That I would like credit for. I've had lots of experience writing screenplays and realizing that, even though something was good, if it didn't fit, you cut it, and maybe you used it in something else or maybe it was lost to the world. I was a little more emotional about it, but it was a good lesson to learn. That's like saying "my worst quality is that I try really hard," isn't it!
On writing and acting at the same time:
The process of writing an acting are really separate for me. For some reason, writing something doesn't give me a particular window into it as an actor, or, I don't feel that way. I also have no idea… if I thought about myself playing it, I couldn't write it. I really like being an actor and handing things over to a director, so it pretty much felt like acting in something I hadn't written, which was nice.
On living in New York City and trying to find yourself after college:
I'm still spending time in Manhattan, and I'll be out of college for the rest of my life! There are definitely things in the movie that are very close to my life. More specifically, I am from Sacramento, those are my parents, and they are here [in the audience]! My sister in law, my second family who I was raised with, we conned them all into being in this movie. Anyway, they were very generous and allowed us to photograph them, which was nice. So yes, a lot of the film is true and a lot of it's made-up, but… I am from Sacramento.
On doing Frances in black and white:
We retroactively came up with a lot of reasons: it's instantly nostalgic, and there's something about it that's grand an cinematic. To give this woman who feels like she's really down on her luck a beautiful black and white movie she's living in that she doesn't know about seemed kind of poetic, and generous.
On the commonalities between Frances and "Girls":
It's flattering, I love "Girls," and I love Lena Dunham--I think she's talented and funny. But of course, "Girls" wasn't out when we made this. We didn't look at it and think "hmm… that looks like a good idea, sad ladies." So we made this and then "Girls" came out. I think the truth is, if something comes out and people like it, they look for something else they like to compare it to. I'm really happy that there's content out there in the world right now that's made by women and isn't just a cypher for what men want to do.
On giving Frances a happy ending:
Her triumphs are so small. It's the very things that have been with her all along that she's been rejected that are there to save her, and she finally sees it that way. It's not that it's such a leap, it's that you know when you're chasing your best friend in a car and you're living at your college and you're 27… you've gotta take a day job.
Frances Ha opens tomorrow at Embarcadero Center Cinemas, 1 Embarcadero Center, (415) 352-0835.
Other treats opening this weekend:
What Maise Knew
Another SFIFF56 alum, this surprisingly upbeat adaptation of Henry James' prescient turn-of-the-century divorce novel comes from former SF locals Scott McGehee and David Siegel. There's an excess of charm in the film's young star Onata Aprile, but everyone's eyes will likely get stuck on Alexander Skarsgard, star of his own Gosling-esqe meme-in-training. Opens tomorrow at Embarcadero Center Cinemas.
The Painting (Le Tableau)
There's no better endorsement for this new French animated film than to point you directly to its trailer. The dialogue can be a little stilted and circuitous, but you don't go see a movie called The Painting for the words, do you? Opens tomorrow in French and English at Opera Plaza Cinemas.