Spotlight by Dean Treadway: "Frances Ha" and Greta Gerwig

Among the finest features of the 2015 Atlanta Film Festival is Growing Up Baumbach, the retrospective of one of this year's honored filmmakers, Noah Baumbach, who's repped at the fest with one of his two new films, While We're Young (starring Naomi Watts and Greenberg collaborator Ben Stiller, playing Wednesday, March 25th, 7 pm at the Plaza Theater). The retrospective has already covered his 1995 debut, a look at post-collegiate aimlessness called Kicking and Screaming, and his Oscar-nominated 2005 film The Squid and the Whale, about a dissolving family of New York intellectuals. Yet I think they've possibly saved the best for last with Baumbach's 2012 teaming with star/co-writer Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha (playing Wednesday, March 18th at 7 pm at the Plaza Theater). I still think it's Baumbach's most visually resplendent movie, and as such, it's primed to be seen on the big screen where we can better enjoy its wily black-and-white gorgeousness.

Baumbach's second 2015 film, Mistress America, will be released later in the year, which is particularly exciting because it features his third collaboration with Gerwig (who broke through to widespread acclaim  in 2010 with her superb supporting performance in Greenberg). From the look of things, their work together is shaping up to be among the most fruitful director/actor collaborations currently hitting screens, and certainly Frances Ha bears this out with its sympathetic, energetic peer into the life of a scrambled artist who's let her rambling youth intercede too far into her adulthood. Gerwig plays a dancer--one without particular talent or drive--who slowly sees the connections around her falling by the wayside. Her relationship with her boyfriend self-destructs in the very first scene, and things keep getting worse for Frances as the film moves on. Her once vital friendship with roommate Sophie (an excellent Mickey Sumner) hits a harsh roadblock, and this sends Frances spiraling into a frantic and hilarious search for her place in the world (literally). Instantly in the pantheon of great New York films (stylistically extremely indebted to Woody Allen's Manhattan, though transplanted to hipstery Brooklyn), Frances Ha is constantly funny, beautiful to behold (with cinematographer Sam Levy's amazing B&W images and a clever source music score featuring David Bowie and French New Wave composer Georges Delarue), and it's the utterly perfect vehicle for Gerwig who, with her articulate eyes and inquisitive mind, continues on her path to being among the most treasured actors on the indie scene.

I've been a fan of Gerwig's ever since being astonished by her work in both Greenberg and Nights and Weekends, her 2008 directorial debut with Joe Swanberg. As the co-host of Movie Geeks United, I had long been angling to get an interview with her for the show, and in 2012, I was successful in landing a 40-minute talk with her about her work on Frances Ha (she was extremely generous, as we had initially only been given 25 minutes together). So I thought I'd include that here as a special bonus. It's a captivating conversation, as I hope you will agree. See you at Frances Ha on Wednesday, March 18th at the Plaza Theater!

Atlanta native Dean Treadway is the Co-Host of Movie Geeks United, the internet's #1 weekly podcast devoted entirely to movies, with 750 industry guests and four million listeners worldwide. His blog, filmicability, has over 500 articles obsessing over films present and past and is approaching 1 million hits.