If the attempts in both to navigate the interstices between public enlightenment and mass entertainment prove mixed, they also point to their inevitable imbrication.
Reframing Frances Ha as a Greta Gerwig film allows us to flip this script and begin to think about how her sensibility, biography, and tangible screen presence work in a way that is undoubtedly amplified and complicated by Baumbach’s contributions, but ultimately can be understood on their own terms.
Directors Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins (who translated his original stage choreography to the screen) fill their 70mm frame with ecstatic movement, operatic emotion, and brilliant color: it’s a dazzling Hollywood spectacle yet it still retains a remarkable delicacy and texture.
We know objectively that anyone could leave at any time, and yet they remain within these increasingly claustrophobic confines, watching and waiting for the next drip of candle wax or hit of amyl nitrate to launch them further down the rabbit hole. Then again, so do we.
Female experience is a fraught and contradictory thing in Alice, established within a matrix of domestic responsibilities, culturally influenced fantasies, and conflicting social expectations regarding the proper relationship between a woman’s desires and duties.
Mean Girls and 30 Rock clearly spring from the same comic worldview: a stylized yet curiously relatable carnival of spring-loaded insults, curveball cultural references, and moments of genuine empathetic connection self-consciously undercut by absurdism.
After charting the romantic fumbling and interpersonal short-circuiting amongst the post-college set with exceeding subtlety, there’s something undeniably exciting about watching the filmmaker slip out of low-budget naturalism and embrace a wonky side little seen in his previous work.
Do the queer romances at the film’s center become one-to-one matches for their straight counterparts elsewhere in Wong’s oeuvre, or does this brief encounter between recognizable directorial vision and atypical topic tweak the inner workings of Wong’s style?
The free-wheeling nature of Dolan’s aesthetic can result in some dubious decisions, but I’ll take the risks of his throw-it-against-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks instincts over the dubious “restraint” seen in too many contemporary films chronicling LGBT experience.
Brave has its problems, not least of which are an overreliance on the sort of yes-dear sitcom stereotyping that characterizes many of the interactions between the stern Elinor and boisterous Fergus. That said, I think it’s worth considering Brave’s particular concerns and cinematic predilections on their own terms