The summer movie season heats up with two great performances in two very solid indies. Greta Gerwig in ‘Frances Ha’ and Matthew McConaughey in “Mud’. Finally, something to cheer about in a summer movie season lacking in ambitious thought.

In Noah Baumbach’s ‘Frances Ha” Greta Gerwig gives a performance that will surely be remembered by critics at years end. She’s so damn good as Frances, a 27 year old yuppie New York girl looking to find herself and refusing to let go of her dream as a professional dancer. This is a far cry from the “Sex And The City” females and more like the ones portrayed in Lena Dunham’s brilliant HBO series “Girls”. In fact, comparisons will be made just by the casting of “Girls” regular Adam Driver. It’s more than just that. Just like Dunham’s show, Frances Ha is the about the coming of age of women that have a hard time embarking in adulthood and just like that series’ best episodes there is an episodic uncomfortableness to Frances’ every day situations. At times you just cringe at the situations she puts herself in.

Gerwig -with her long wavy blonde hair and a clumsy posture- is spectacular in more ways than one. She brings realness to a character that could have easily delved deep into caricature. It doesn’t happen here. Instead Baumbach, in his best film since “The Squid And The Whale”, launches the career of a new star. Gerwig’s gestures, movements, facial expressions are spot on and make you fall for Frances – flaws and all. Her life is a confusing mess, while her best friend/roommate finds love and moves out. She is down on cash, single, awkward and in search of herself. She acts younger than her age, takes things one day at a time and doesn’t think much about the future. At some point living this way catches up to you. It caught up to me in my life and it caught up to many other late twenty somethings that I knew of. Baumbach’s character study doesn’t cozy up to any conventions. He speaks the truth for my generation and creates a sort of wake up call. Shot in beautiful black and white he proves that “The Squid And The Whale” was no fluke. With all that being said “Frances Ha” is the Greta Gerwig show, Oscar pay attention.

In Jeff Nichols’ “Mud” Matthew McConaughey holds your attention every time he’s on screen. As an island outlaw hiding from the police, McConaughey’s Mud is a mysterious drifter with more than a few secrets to hide. Not fair revealing anything else about the plot but Nichols’ film is a dark coming of age movie seen through the eyes of two 14 year old Arkansas boys. Their fascination for Mud is just as strong as ours and we see the film through the eyes of teenage boys just beginning to learn about life’s harsh truths. Nichols tells the story in a more straightforward fashion than he did in his highly acclaimed 2011 film “Take Shelter”. All the better for it,. The screenplay makes Nichols not need as much stylistic ambition, instead the director opts to just tell the story. Good call. McConaughey, 44, only recently hit his stride as an actor. If you saw him in last year’s triumphant trifecta “Bernie”, “Magic Mike” and “Killer Joe” or 2011’s underseen, underrated “The Lincoln Lawyer” you know exactly how good of an actor he can be. Over the years his pretty boy looks have prevented him from ever being taken seriously as an actor. That’s too bad because here is an actor that is currently at his prime and should be taken very seriously. He plays with the audience’s heads in “Mud” and demands us to pay attention to his every move. It’s a performance that brilliantly captures a man lost in an ocean of thought and not letting anyone into his dark world filled with murderous tendencies and undying love. It’s a great performance that will be remembered come awards time and might only be overshadowed by an upcoming performance of his later on this year in Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf Of Wall Street”.

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  • CG

    I’ll give you McConaughey in Mud. But you’re high if you think Greta Gerwig is “so damn good” in Frances Ha. Mediocre at best.

  • Bryce Forestieri


  • Q Mark

    Gerwig has been secretly great in a lot of films (Greenberg, Damsels In Distress, even in a thankless role in the Arthur remake) for a while now. Frances Ha is a terrific movie, my current favourite of the year though we’ve had mostly just summer dreck thus far.

    McConaughey will probably end up being snubbed for Mud….but geez, that Wolf On Wall Street role looks promising for a supporting nod. That chest-thumping bit is already famous.

  • I agree. “Frances Ha” has many problems and the biggest one is Ms Gerwig.

    “Mud”, by the other hand, is great.

  • Gerwig has given my favorite performance of the year so far. I hope she can gain some Oscar traction (or at least pull a Globe nod – more likely, maybe). Frances Ha is like Girls with a shot of Girl Walk // All Day. Easily one of my favorites of the year so far.

  • rouge en rouge

    Great. Another movie about an “awkward” (and conveniently well off) white girl we can all rave about. All those uncomfortable situations she puts herself in, I’m sure her story is indeed a universal one, something we can all cheer and celebrate and, most importantly, relate. More stories like this one please, more, more and more.

  • Bryce Forestieri

    You mean you only like pity-poor movies like WINSTER’S BONE?

    Full disclaimer: love WINTER’S BONE

    My problem with FRANCES HA is not Gerwig, I thought she was phenomenal is DAMSELS, while the movie was good… like the first 45% of the movie.

  • Eoin Daly

    I have not seen Greta and will be seeing the film in three weeks. McConaughey was great but I would consider him supporting since the film is about the children. He was great in the film and it is his best performance to date and I hope he is remembered come january but if not for this it will only help him in lead for his real oscar project as everyone needs all the help they can when going up aganist Redford this oscar season.

  • Pete

    Actually Gerwig has been able to perfect the whole awkward thing quite nicely whenever the subject of Jennifer Jason Leigh wafts her way.

  • @Eoin, yea I forgot to mention it in the article but he is definitely supporting in “Mud”

    As for the Gerwig haters, it’s not a showy role but I find it’s very hard to nail a role such as this one with as much conviction as she does.
    She plays a girl that doesn’t really have any likable traits but she doesn’t come off as annoying and in fact makes us root for her in the end.

  • Joao Mattos

    Greta is the cover of the new “Sight and Sound”:

    http://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/sight-sound-magazine/sight-sound-august-2013-issue (smoking, when was the last time I see some movie people smoking on the cover of a magazine {excluding “Cigar Aficionado”, of course}?)

  • h

    My performance of the year so far goes to Brie Larson for Short Term 12. Go see that movie. O.M.G.

  • Jack


  • K. Bowen

    Greta Gerwig is many good things. I’ve enjoyed her in every movie I’ve seen her in. She is not a star. If an actor can ride a bus in Denver without being noticed, he/she is not a star.

  • Casey

    Great list of 2.

    If I may add 2 more:

    James Franco- spring breakers
    Emma Watson- bling ring

    For supporting

  • Mattoc

    I would say both of these performances will be overlooked.
    I do think MMc will get mominated for both Wolf and Dallas Buyers Club though.

  • Bryce Forestieri

    Totally slipped by me that Peter Travers already wrote the first one of his gross FYC-disguised-as critic’s-review-ad of the year. Glad it’s at least one of the legitimately great movies of the year.

    For Your Consideration

    -Best Visual Effects

    -Best Actor
    Tye Sheridan, MUD

    -Best Supporting Actress

    -Best Original Score
    Cliff Martinez, SRPING BREAKERS
    Clint Mansell – STOKER

    -Best Cinematography
    Benoît Debie, SPRING BREAKERS
    Shane Carruth, SPTREAM COLOR

    Awards Daily should do a post during the thick of the season to honor great supporting performances, and I mean truly supporting aka small parts which are not to include co-leads, almost-leads, scene-stealers (specially if they are in at least 50% of the scenes in the movie), with’s, and and’s or anything The Academy would honor in the Best Supporting categories. For instance my favorite last year would have been Kirsten Dunst in ON THE ROAD. This year so far I’m sticking with Peter Weller in STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS and Ray Liotta in THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES. Anyways just thought it’d be cool.

  • JoeS

    McConaughey may get in as Supporting (though he is the title character), but has other performances this year coming up. (and, we know how short-term memory Oscar voters usually are).

    Gerwig is ok in an annoying film.

  • Patrick

    Frances Ha is an amusing trifle of a film. Gerwig is very good in it, but let’s not get carried away it’s not like it’s a tremendous extension of her range.

    I get the distinct feeling that McConaghey may end up with a Supporting Nod for the Wolf of WS, as a consolation for not getting a nod for Mud or Dallas Buyers Club.

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