It is common knowledge that to connect with people, you have to write about what you truly know and feel. Empathy is the key to success and Greta Gerwig definitely aimed well and scored. Actress, screenwriter and now director, she is one of the leading muses in this modern feminist wave that is hitting Hollywood these days. Her nomination for directing at the 2018 Academy Awards – only achieved by 4 other women in the past – is a clear sign of it, with the feeling that something might be really changing. In her stories, she writes about women, about their raw complexity, making you love and admire every single flaw as if it was their strongest point. Our deep feminine complexities and visceral feelings are there, on the screen, naked and pure. We feel at home and you cannot help but love these extraordinary women narrated by a great one.
She first stole my heart when I saw Frances Ha, which more than a movie feels like a dreamy stream of consciousness: shot in black and white in a contemporary New York, its real and earnest characters battling with words in a “table tennis match’ style. Frances, the protagonist played by Greta herself, is a combination of contrasts: strength and fragility, generosity and selfishness alternate in her actions and thoughts, depicting a convincing, complex and very much relatable portrait of a woman in her late 20’s, trying to figure her life out and find her people. When I learned that Gerwig also co-wrote the entire movie together with director Noah Baumbach I understood why I felt this deep connection and my admiration for her grew. I started to feel she was someone to keep an eye on.
After that came Mistress America, an ideal sequel of Frances Ha brought to us by the same prolific collaboration. And here it is a portrait of another fascinating woman, in her early thirties this time, who, despite her untiring energy and fearless personality, finds herself with too many goals and too little achievements. Kind but self-centred, charming and borderline hysteric at once. I was, again, totally hooked.
Another gem in her career is the role she played in 20th Century Women, the last movie from director Mike Mills. It’s an autobiographical coming of age story set in the 80’s where the protagonist – a 13 years old kid – is raised by 3 generations of women: his strong and independent mother Dorothea – a marvellous Annette Bening – their flatmate Abbie – a fragile and inspiring Gerwig – and his platonic love Julie (Elle Fanning). All memorable characters that keep learning from each other’s generations in their journey through solitude, deception, grief and joy, while dancing to the rough notes of Punk. A story that director Mills has told us with extreme delicacy and poetry, as always.
When I heard she was directing her first movie, I was quite excited to finally see her solo debut. After I saw Lady Bird, I must say I was in awe. Greta not playing in it is its only downside, but she is there all the same: the setting, the complexity of her characters, the accurate and poetic language, they’re all a projection of her eccentricity and charisma. The cast is so talented and the flow is so perfect that you feel just naturally catapulted into the life of this 17-year-old young lady and her relationship with her mother, her personality, her dreams and fears.
It’s undoubted that Greta Gerwig is an inspiring human being. Watching her movies, you have the feeling of “stumbling into beauty and then it’s gone”, each one a sequence of fleeting moments, accurately written, designed and directed to look like improv, like mistakes. It’s this perfect imperfection that charms, making it really difficult to not being genuinely obsessed with her work. But the value of it is far beyond beauty: through her eyes we can finally see women, their relationships, their lives, with a high level of understanding and sensitivity. And the more you talk about something, the more you know and empower it. The #metoo movement, the #Times’up initiative, the #HeforShe campaign, are all positive signs that a lot of passionate women are finally speaking up and, equally important, many great men are listening and participating actively into the change. As Oprah said in her incredible speech during the Golden Globes “A new day is on the horizon” and we are very much looking forward to seeing it shine.