From the margins of ultra broke independent cinema to the center of the Hollywood machine, Greta Gerwig’s career has traced a stunning and exciting trajectory in the American cinematographic landscape. A look back at seven key dates in the filmography of the actress and director who conquered Hollywood.
2007 – Hannah Takes the Stairs by Joe Swanberg
Before being at the controls of one of the most anticipated blockbusters of the year, we discover Greta Gerwig in 2007, in the main role ofHannah Takes the Stairs. She then becomes the leading figure of the mumblecorethis current of independent cinema whose name comes from the cross between mumble (mumble) and core (core, heart).
These films, directed by Joe Swanberg, Andrew Bujalski, Mark and Jay Duplass, are anchored in the most ordinary daily life to follow young protagonists who are a bit lost, aged between 20 and 30, who struggle to communicate between them. Giving a large part to improvisation, this movement is in line with the continuity of the cinema of John Cassavetes, while updating it thanks to an unprecedented lightness and freshness.
In Hannah Takes the Stairs, Baghead (2008), Nights and Weekends (2008), Gerwig lights up films with her presence and her inimitable flow of words, which makes her a kind of feminine Woody Allen. By multiplying the projects in a tight time and by participating in the writing and the realization of these films, she becomes one of the most promising figures of the American independent cinema.
2010 – Greenberg by Noah Baumbach
With Greenberg, Greta Gerwig’s career takes on a new dimension. Directed by Noah Baumbach, then a rising figure in indie cinema and scriptwriter of Wes Anderson’s films, and carried by Ben Stiller, the film introduced Gerwig’s talent to a wider audience and brought him real critical acclaim.
As the Greenbergs go on vacation, they leave the key to their beautiful home to babysitter Florence (Greta Gerwig) and depressed New York uncle Roger (Ben Stiller). Gerwig perfectly embodies this eccentric and charming young woman, completely lost in her romantic relationships but who continues to cultivate a romantic ideal. These two misfits will then forge a relationship marked by their awkwardness together, in a film that multiplies the breaks in tone, passing from the most trivial and light comedy to a form of moving melancholy gravity.
2011 – Ladies in Distress by Whit Stillman
After Baumbach, Gerwig shoots a year later for Whit Stillman, who makes his big comeback to the cinema fifteen years after his cult film The Last Days of Disco. If Gerwig works wonders in these comedies directed by New York filmmakers, it’s because she manages to put herself at the service of the intelligence and sophistication of the writing, while bringing a moving candor that thwarts the irony and sarcasm.
In Ladies in Distress, she plays a young student from an American campus surrounded by her group of friends. The film could have quickly turned into a parody or caricature of the American campus film, but all the beauty of the feature film lies in its way of instilling a joyful elegance that protects it against any cynicism. A candid joy then emerges from this teen movie punctuated by tasty burlesque shifts cleverly orchestrated by Gerwig.
2012 – Frances Ha by Noah Baumbach
Two years later Geenberg, Gerwig finds Baumbach (with whom she shares her life) for one of her most significant roles. Again, the beauty of Frances Ha is very much due to the talent of its interpreter, whose spontaneity shows in the formal sophistication of the staging. The simple presence of the actress makes it possible to avoid the pitfall of the somewhat dusty film-lover’s exercise dedicated to the French New Wave.
Gerwig’s energy thus electrifies each sequence thanks to a jubilant and irresistible vitality, which reaches its peak in a famous sequence punctuated by Modern Love by David Bowie, where the actress sets off on a frantic race through the streets of New York, like Denis Lavant in Bad blood.
2017 – lady bird by Greta Gerwig
With his first solo film, Gerwig takes on the hackneyed genre of teen movie initiatory by filming the friendly, sentimental and sexual first times of its 17-year-old protagonist, played by Saoirse Ronan. The director brilliantly succeeds in imposing her singular and feminist gaze by diverting the figures and obligatory passages of the genre.
From this tender portrait of a somewhat marginal teenager, who only dreams of leaving her family and her native Sacramento, we can guess the autobiographical part of the film. Through this retrospective movement that seeks to capture the time of the first times, the filmmaker films an era that is no more, a lost youth: hence this delicate nostalgia, specific to the best teen movieswhich ends up moving us casually.
This first burst of brilliance earned her instant recognition in the landscape of American cinema: Saoirse Ronan won the Golden Globe for best actress and the film that of best comedy, while it obtained five nominations for the most prestigious Oscars ( including best director and best film). From there, the doors of Hollywood seem to be fully open for Greta Gerwig.
2019 – The Daughters of Doctor March by Greta Gerwig
In tune with the #MeToo movement, which has been gaining momentum since 2017 with the Weinstein affair, Greta Gerwig’s second feature film seems to affirm that Hollywood cinema must now take a new look and make a new voice heard.
With this feminist rereading of Louisa May Alcott’s novel, the filmmaker brings together the best actresses from several generations (Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Meryl Streep, Laura Dern) to celebrate sorority and female creation.
If the film is nominated in five categories at the 2020 Oscars, including best film and best actress for Saoirse Ronan, Greta Gerwig is not nominated for the award for best direction. That year, no woman was named in this category; the subject of his film then takes on a very particular topicality.
2023 – Barbie by Greta Gerwig
With Barbie, Greta Gerwig rises to the top of the Hollywood machine. By crossing the world of Barbie, the Mattel doll who carries with her a whole sexist imagination, and the gaze of a feminist filmmaker, the film is, on paper, a rather exciting project. Moreover, the director from independent cinema could hack the Hollywood system from the inside (at a time when sanitized and soulless products are linked), by imposing a singular look a bit like Paul Verhoeven, George Miller or Steven Spielberg before her.
It remains to be seen if the film worn by Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling is not limited to a luxury marketing campaign and if Gerwig manages to resolve the apparent contradiction of a film claimed to be feminist but financed by Mattel. In our opinion, the bet is not entirely won…