Frances Ha is all about Greta Gerwig. She cowrote and stars in the black-and-white coming-of-age story from director Noah Baumbach, who's known for being the man behind the lens on previous movies The Squid and the Whale and Greenberg.
This is Greta's latest collaboration with Noah, since they worked together on Greenberg and the ill-fated HBO pilot for Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections. They've become more than just professional acquaintances. Their romantic relationship was under the radar for nearly a year before they confirmed their status in an April New Yorker piece.
Noah and Greta's special connection has its advantages when it comes to working together, which explains their collaboration on Frances Ha as well as an animated project and another film. "We just are able to write the same song, in some way. We each are contributing to it and have our own thing, but it's like this '70s songwriter partnership where — not that it's the equivalency of The Beatles — but Lennon and McCartney, they just made each other better," Greta said. "Noah and I, we kind of make each other — I don't want to say better because he was already really great — but he certainly makes me better and we bring something out in each other in our writing that I don't think we have alone."
Appropriately then, Frances Ha is a story made of love stories. Firstly, it's the tale of the affection between two college friends who are growing up and drifting apart. Greta's Frances has found her match in best pal Sophie, played by Mickey Sumner, daughter of Sting and Trudie Styler. Greta and Mickey have relatable onscreen chemistry, and apparently did in real life, too. Greta explained, "The thing that made me know that [Mickey] was Sophie was that we'd been auditioning so many actresses — and really great actresses — but something happened when we auditioned [Mickey] which was that I felt like all of a sudden I became Frances . . . it was kind of magical."
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The locations in the film are based around places Greta and Noah love. The majority was shot in New York City, where Noah was born and Greta's adopted home. "I don't think we ever thought about it being anywhere else. It just felt like it was a New York story," she said. "I love New York City so much, as does Noah, and I think that there's something about really shooting a city that you love." Their experiences took Frances to farther-flung locales, too, but all the places have connections to Noah and Greta. Frances visits her parents in Sacramento (Greta's actual hometown) and spends a Summer at her unnamed Poughkeepsie college (which was filmed at Noah's alma mater Vassar). "In a funny way, we didn't actually incorporate our own lives into the story as much as we incorporated it into the shooting. We wrote scenes of going home and what that meant, and back to the college . . . when we went to go shoot it, instead of inventing a place we had never been before, we both shared an interest in putting real things into totally fictionalized, written pieces."
The camera, manned by Noah, is also clearly fond of Greta, who has a unique movie star appeal. As Frances, and like many of the other characters she's played in films like Damsels in Distress, Greenberg, and To Rome With Love, she has an endearing quirky quality — imagine your best friend just happening to be in movies. Those characteristics come through in every Frances Ha scene, whether Frances is dancing, making a fool of herself at a dinner party, or watching the guy she has a crush on come home with someone else.
In real life, Greta seems to be easing into the public role of being an actress. Leading-lady status comes with attendant privileges, including invitations to very fun — and very exclusive — parties. The last month has seen Greta at the Met Gala and even Monday's CFDA Awards, where she wore a special "white tuxedo onesie." Despite the regular red carpet appearances and the movie openings, Greta's still a practical Sacramento girl. As for her CFDA ensemble, she said, "I was like, 'OK — I am only going to drink clear liquids.' I'm clumsy. So it's also stressful."