Most Known For: “Frances Ha,” “Arthur,” “Greenberg”
Snubbed For: “Frances Ha”
One side of the debate over whether or not the Oscars should go back to five Best Picture nominees or stick with ten is that the experiment has failed. After hoping to include more widely known films, and as a result increase ratings, with a max of ten nominees the opposite has actually taken place and indies have found a place at the table more often than not. However, even with the increase of an indie presence at Hollywood’s biggest award ceremony, the indie queen of the 21st century has not been able to join her peers. I’m speaking of course of Greta Gerwig.
Gerwig has spent the entirety of her near ten-year career almost exclusively on the indie circuit, but despite finding her niche and some excellent collaborators the academy hasn’t looked her way yet.
Gerwig has worked with some of the biggest names in indie film – Joe Swanberg, Mark Duplass, Walt Whitman – but it wasn’t until 2010 that she got her big break by starring in Noah Baumbach’s “Greenberg.” Starring opposite Ben Stiller, Gerwig stole the show and earned the biggest raves of her young career. Critics groups cited her performance, she was nominated for the Breakthrough Award by Gotham and an Indie Spirit Award for Best Actress. However, “Greenberg” didn’t hit as well as some of Baumbach’s previous films and had little effect outside of indie circles.
Naturally, her success in “Greenberg” parlayed into a chance to truly break out in studio films. Gerwig played one of Natalie Portman’s friends in “No Strings Attached” and then the lead opposite Russell Brand in the remake of “Arthur.” Both films flopped and did nothing to help Gerwig make in roads as a bankable lead actress. Even a role in a Woody Allen movie, which seems like it would be right up her alley, didn’t help all that much.
The actress made lemonade out of lemons, though, continuing to turn out interesting roles in indie films, even starting to help craft them.
Gerwig’s “biggest” film to date is her second collaboration with Baumbach where she got to take center stage, “Frances Ha.” As a New Yorker in her 20s struggling to adjust to the realities of adulthood, Gerwig gives a strong performance as the titular Frances, nailing the wacky bits but also the inner turmoil of this lost person. Her performance would get nominations from the London Film Critics, the Broadcast Film Critics, and from the Golden Globes.
Arguably, her work on the “Frances Ha” screenplay with Baumbach was more deserving of a nom and the bigger snub. With a field that included “Her,” “Blue Jasmine,” “Nebraska” and “American Hustle” it certainly wasn’t a weak year for original screenplay, but had “Dallas Buyers Club” not been as surprisingly high in categories outside of acting with the Academy that year, “Frances Ha” very well could have snuck in.
Another indication that Gerwig might just not be meant to go mainstream was in the cancellation of “How I Met Your Dad” before the pilot even aired. As a spinoff to the way to dragged out “How I Met Your Mother,” it never seemed like the best idea, but the one thing that the show potentially had in its favor was Gerwig as the lead and contributing to the writing. She might have brought an interesting perspective and definitely would have grown her fan base with it, but with her track record, it’s hard to argue her having more time to make her own films.
If she wants to get into the academy’s good graces it looks like she will have to do it on the indie circuit and she’ll have some good opportunities to do so. Gerwig already starred opposite Al Pacino earlier this year in “The Humbling” and she’ll have her third go around with Baumbach sometime this year with “Mistress America,” which already premiered at Sundance to positive reviews.
A-listers often go make a passion indie project to shoot for their Oscar, but it’s time that the actors and actresses who make their living on the indie circuit get the recognition they deserve at the Oscars. Among the first to get their due should be Gerwig.