Baumbach Returns to Make Us Laugh (and/or Question Our Own Life Decisions)

On May 20, 2013 by Lori Z

This is a guest post by JBFC Programmer Andrew Jupin.

frances-ha-580Feeling lost? Worried about what the future holds? Just plain tired? If so, you’d probably fit right in with the characters in Noah Baumbach’s films. The Master of Trapped Protagonists returns to the Burns for the third time* this Wednesday with his latest, Frances Ha, from IFC Films. This time Baumbach’s lost hero is played by former Mumblecore Queen, Greta Gerwig, who co-wrote the screenplay with Baumbach.

To a lot of folks, the films Baumbach has helped write might be more familiar than his actual directorial works: The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Fantastic Mr. Fox (both films co-written and directed by Baumbach’s good friend, Wes Anderson), and let’s not forget Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted. But on top of writing movies with talking animals or Bill Murray — or Bill Murray-voiced talking animals — Baumbach has been writing and directing his own incredibly interesting films since his 1995 debut, the fabulous Kicking and Screaming.

Baumbach has flourished writing characters that, no matter what point in life they are at, are socially or professionally stunted and scared by their impending futures. Love them or loathe them, Baumbach’s witty principals always find themselves in search of answers, but not always motivated to get the search party together. The super-autobiographical The Squid and the Whale saw the Berkman family — played by Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg, and Owen Kline — dealing with the devastating crossroads created by the parents’ divorce. The group of postgraduate pals that call themselves the Cougars (or the Hawks, depending on the day) in Kicking and Screaming — Josh Hamilton, Carlos Jacott, Chris Eigeman, and Jason Wiles — all find themselves stuck in that post-collegiate malaise that overtakes us all at one point or another: Get a job? Head to grad school? Re-enroll as an undergrad and stay put? The two sisters in Margot at the WeddingNicole Kidman and Jennifer Jason Leigh — can’t seem to unstick themselves from their past pains and familial issues. Even Ben Stiller’s titular character in Greenberg just needs to drop out of life for a bit and hang out at his brother’s on house sitting duty. So with that baggage in mind, Greta Gerwig’s Frances feels right at home among all those troubled people.

Frances Ha follows Frances, a sort-of New Yorker and a sort-of dancer, who comes off like a combination of what film critic Nathan Rabin would call a “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” and the laidback “hero” of any and every Mumblecore film ever made. She is moving through life having a great time, but not really nailing the whole making-plans-and-proceeding-into-the-next-phase-of-adulthood part. Gerwig first appeared in the Baumbach Universe in 2010’s Greenberg playing Florence, Roger Greenberg’s romantic-ish interest. She immediately proved herself a perfect addition to the Baumbach Collaborators Stable, able to handle all the witty dialogue and awkward drama that comes with each Baumbach project.

Captured in black and white on a Canon 5D MKII, the film was covertly shot on location in places like New York, Paris, and Vassar College — Baumbach’s alma mater. It also features great music (all of his films do) from artists such as Paul McCartney, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, and Harry Nilsson. It’s one of the most anticipated films of 2013 from one of cinema’s most interesting working directors.

Noah Baumbach will be here for a conversation with New York Times critic, Janet Maslin on Wednesday, May 22nd, at 7:30pm. Frances Ha opens at the Burns on Friday, May 24th. Tickets are on sale now!

* Baumbach previously visited the Burns for screenings of Greenberg and Margot at the Wedding.

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