Tag Archives: The Squid and the Whale

Two Indie Gems for Your Queue

Earlier this year the indie gem Frances Ha was released, not that the world noticed. Well, world, here’s your opportunity to make amends, because this loosely articulated but deftly crafted character study of a New York dork could come home with you today on DVD.

The creative pairing of unrepentant misanthrope, writer/director Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) and unabashedly likeable writer/star Greta Gerwig, the film gives Baumbach the opportunity to explore the lives of damaged neurotics, as usual, but gifts us with a protagonist we cannot help but love. As Frances tumbles, limbs akimbo, out of her arrested adolescence and into her long-dormant adulthood, a delightful journey emerges.

For something as impressive, if not quite so effervescent, you must see Baumbach’s masterpiece of awkward family dysfunction, The Squid and the Whale. This dark, semi-autobiographical comedy follows a self-absorbed adolescent, his divorcing narcissist parents, and his perhaps irrevocably weird little brother. Baumbach’s wicked writing created endless opportunities for the film’s dream cast, boasting, among other triumphs, the most brilliant performance of Jeff Daniels’s career.


Settle Down, Frances

Frances Ha

By Hope Madden

As a filmmaker, Noah Baumbach tends to bombard an audience with characters he dares you to find sympathetic. From The Squid and the Whale to Margo at the Wedding to Greenberg, Baumbach has filled the screen with damaged, self-absorbed neurotics. But his casual misanthropy met its match when he cast the effortlessly likeable Greta Gerwig in Greenberg.

The two team up again for Frances Ha. They share writing duties and Baumbach directs while Gerwig stars as a far cheerier spin on the helmsman’s typical protagonist.

A loosely sketched character study, the film relies heavily on Gerwig’s talent and honesty as she portrays Frances, a free floater who’s trying to change that about herself. Frances is a 27-year-old modern dance intern whose shelf life is becoming too apparent. Her BFF Sophie (an agreeably natural Mickey Sumner – Sting’s daughter) has even moved on to career and commitment.

Suddenly Frances feels she’s outworn the welcome of her carefree youth, and as Frances tries to shake free from her own arrested adolescence, a delightful journey emerges.

The film is far less structured than anything Baumbach’s done to date, feeling a bit closer to Gerwig’s mumblecore roots. But in sometimes subtle ways, Baumbach’s craftsmanship shines. This film is a carefully articulated idea masquerading as improv.

The result is equal parts Woody Allen, French New Wave and Jim Jarmusch, and amazingly enough, it never feels too hip for its own good. That’s likely because, swimming in Brooklynite hipsters, Frances is an adorable dork.

Gerwig says she and Baumbach began with snippets of conversations and small encounters, pushing those little moments to grow into a full picture. The result is as loose and musical yet precisely choreographed as a dance.