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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Kent State chapter.

The first time I was introduced to Greta Gerwig was when I saw the movie Frances Ha. In Frances Ha,  Gerwig gives a great performance as Frances a broke modern dancer who is having a hard time adapting to adult life. This movie was directed by Noah Baumbach, but her and Baumbach wrote it together. Watching this movie, you can see sneak peeks into what future Gerwig films will explore and be like.  

One way this is shown is through Frances personality, which is full of idiosyncrasies and how she speaks in a way that is very unique. She makes references to Virginia Woolf and she speaks in a way that is totally unique to her.  In one part of the film, Frances is at a dinner party and unprompted starts describing how she desperately wants to have this type of love with a person where they are at a party and they look across a room at one another lock eyes and they just know that they are each other’s person.  Frances can’t help but completely be herself at all times. She can’t mute it or water it down in any way it’s just her through and through. This type of thorough character development has been a huge reason why people have loved Lady Bird and her adaption of Little Women. The bedrock of Gerwig’s movies are her vibrant characters. Christine McPherson and Jo March are completely themselves all the time. They have an innate sense of self that cannot be tamed. Christine gives herself the name Lady Bird and lets no one tell her how she can’t go to school “where culture is and writers live in the woods,” aka New York or New England. When her mother tells her to just go to city college, she throws herself out of a moving car!

fountain pen on a letter
Alvaro Serrano

In Little Women, Gerwig left no sister undeveloped. Meg does not just get married and disappears, never to be bothered with again. Beth remains the sweet and caring sister but is given a charming quirky personality and a passion for music. Most importantly though, and what gave this film so much nuisance and depth is that Amy is not just written as a brat and a snob with few redeeming qualities but a completely fleshed out character. Gerwig writing Amy as a woman who is highly aware of the misogynistic standards of the time period she lives in and that money is her only chance to have some freedom allows the audience to empathize and feel a kinship to Amy that the book nor previous film adaptions have given us. The character of Amy gives this story a greater sense of reality and perspective.

Another way Frances Ha showed us the future of Gerwig films is the way it portrays relationships. Gerwig likes to explore love that is not romantic, but the love you have for your best friend or in Lady Bird the love between a mother and daughter. Gerwig does show these types of love in very specific and personal ways. In Frances Ha the central struggle is about Frances’ relationship with her best friend Sophie, and how they are going through a breakup in a sense. At the beginning and the end of the film, you see how special and loving their relationship was. In one scene specifically, you see them play fight which is an activity that is very specific to their relationship, it’s almost intimate in a way. Later in the movie when Frances tries to get another woman to play fight, the woman is confused by Frances’s action and doesn’t get it. Also, at the end of the film Sophie and Frances lock eyes across the room and just their eyes show you how much they care about one another.

Gerwig takes a similar approach of specific and personal interaction between characters in Lady Bird in the way she shows Christine and her mother’s relationship and how similar they are. One of my favorite parts of Lady Bird is when Christine and her Mom are in the car together listening to The Grapes of Wrath on a book on tape and just crying together about what they are listening to. It gives us a sense of their bond and how they are both empathetic people. Their bond and love for another comes through really clearly when they are shopping together. When they are shopping for an outfit for Christine to wear for her to wear to her boyfriend’s family thanksgiving. They are bickering and then her mom picks up this dress and they stop and “ooh” and “ahh” over it. It’s a moment that is so specific to mother and daughter.

Lastly what I think makes a Greta Gerwig film a “Greta Gerwig film” its themes and overtones of nostalgia and love of home. Gerwig loves her birthplace of Sacramento, California. In Frances Ha, Frances is from Sacramento and it shows her going home for Christmas. This is shown through a series of shots showing Frances spending time with her parents, going to a holiday party, and then taking down Christmas lights. It doesn’t make fun of these activates it show the joy and comfort these activities bring Frances.

In Lady Bird, you get to see this love of Sacramento to a greater extent. The movie has shots of Sacramento throughout and the movie follows Christine’s realization of how much she loves her hometown. In a phone message to her mom, she talks about how the first time she drove in Sacramento it made her emotional because of how many formative experiences had taken place there and that she is the person she was because of Sacramento.

These same themes carry over in Little Women. Jo gets very homesick in New York because her whole life had been there and it’s where she experienced so much joy there. Jo finds success in writing when she writes about her home and family. Gerwig may have been attracted to the story as well because the novel Little Women is a fictitious account of Louisa May Alcott’s childhood home and her family. This is similar to Lady Bird because it’s a fictitious account of Greta Gerwig’s adolescence in Sacramento.

Greta Gerwig is one of my favorite writers and directors. She writes about mundane stories and lives but makes them whole by thinking about the many details of everyday life. All of her characters are well developed especially her female ones. She is a unique writer and director because in Hollywood she writes stories for women. Her stories are humorous, emotional, and personal. They feel intimate and completely unique. I look forward to seeing what she creates as her career goes on and I will watch anything she is in and whatever she makes.


Elaina Mendiola

Kent State '22

Elaina is a Fashion Merchandising major at Kent State University. She enjoys watching movies, hanging out with her dogs, thrifting, listening to podcasts, and being with friends. As a Her Campus writer, she hopes to share her passions of fashion and feminism while making others laugh along the way. Her very favorite things are her dog Priscilla, Manrepeller, and the podcast True Crime Obsessed.
Junior at Kent State, with a mojor in journalism and a minor in fashion media. I like to write about fashion, lifestyle and Harry Styles.