At the movies

Greta Gerwig talks secrecy, relationships in ‘Frances Ha’


In Frances Ha, which opens Friday at Coral Gables Art Cinema, Greta Gerwig ( Lola Versus, Damsels in Distress) plays Frances, a cash-strapped New York dancer involved perhaps too deeply with her roommate Sophie ( Mickey Sumner, daughter of musician Sting).

Gerwig’s character just doesn’t want to grow up, trying instead to cling to a past where life was bliss and problems were met with humor. The movie opens with a scene between Gerwig and Sophie, “nostalgia in melancholy,” according to Gerwig.

“We’re almost telling the story of what happens when it’s over,” she said.

Gerwig said that Frances’ relationship with Sophie is “about as close you can get to intimacy and love without being sexual.” It is more than a friendship, although Sophie still is not “family.”

“It’s incredibly painful; the world doesn’t really have a position for you in this relationship. It feels like it should be more,” Gerwig said.

What’s unique about Frances Ha was the drawn-out approach, from the screenplay to filming. While a typical indie movie would shoot in about 25 days, Gerwig said that this film took 50 days.

“It was really about making it as good as it can possibly be,” Gerwig said. This proved to be difficult: “[It was] very rigorous.”

The crew filmed on and off for more than a year in locations like New York, Sacramento and Paris, keeping the movie in a “perpetual motion machine.” Shot in black and white, the film has a “scrappy” feel, Gerwig said.

Academy Award-nominated director Noah Baumbach ( The Squid and the Whale) kept the cast in the dark, literally. Actors on set were given only their lines to read, not the whole script. Gerwig said this was intentional.

“If the actors read the whole script, they might think ‘my part isn’t that important,’ ” she said.

Gerwig also had a bit of a homecoming during the filming. Her character visits Sacramento, her hometown, and her real parents play her mother and father.

“I convinced my parents to be part of it,” Gerwig said. “I love having them in a movie.”

Frances eventually has to deal “with reality” throughout the film. But she uses comedy, almost blindly, to cope with unfavorable situations. Gerwig said her character has a “bigness of spirit.”

Still, her sadness helps the film. Gerwig said that she loves walking out of a movie with an expanded heart because the film “articulated something about life that made me feel less lonely.” She hopes Frances Ha has the same effect on audiences.

“I’m always looking for those moments of grace,” she said. “It just makes me hurt in such a good way.”

Anthony Cave

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