In Praise Of… Greta Gerwig

The director of the moment gets our thumbs up…

As everyone goes Barbie nuts, we break down five of our favourite things about its co-writer and director, Greta Gerwig.

How She Treats Her Cast

As a director, Gerwig wants her cast to feel comfortable on set. One of the ways she achieves that is by dressing in an aesthetic similar to her films. For Little Women, it was the contrast of bright and colder colours depending on if the scene was set in the past or the present. For Barbie, it was pink (obviously). Whilst shooting Lady Bird she pulled on a prom dress during the prom scenes to make sure that no-one felt absurd. “I know some directors like to run their sets based on fear, but I wanted to create an environment where people can come and talk to  you and not try to hide or throw someone else under the bus,” Gerwig told Entertainment Weekly.

Her Acting Performances

Gerwig carved a name for herself as an actress in the late 2000’s, appearing in several Mumblecore films (Mumblecore was a subgenre of indie films that utilised naturalistic performances and sometimes improvised dialogue). Her dry line delivery is a joy to watch, especially when her characters are experiencing what can only be described as a ‘first world problem’. A prime example is Mistress America: Gerwig plays a 30-something who befriends her soon to be stepsister in the hopes of vicariously reliving her youth through her. The film was co-written by Gerwig and it’s an incredible vehicle for showcasing just how good she is. 

She Stands Her Ground

When you sign on to write and direct the film adaptation of one of the biggest toy brands in the world, there’s a certain level of executive meddling you should expect. Whilst in production on Barbie, the President of Mattel, Richard Dickson, wanted a scene removed from the film because he felt it didn’t ‘fit the brand’. When Gerwig and producer/star Margot Robbie refused, Dickson flew to London to firmly put his foot down. However when he arrived, Gerwig and Robbie staged the scene for him and it remained in the film. Pushback is a good quality to have in a director who’s voiced her excitement at moving into blockbuster filmmaking, especially as she gears up to adapt CS Lewis’ The Chronicles Of Narnia for Netflix.

She Knows Her Stuff

When in pre-production, Gerwig will watch films that directly deal with or confront the themes she’s trying to get across in her work. These inspirations are clearly felt throughout her filmography, and the breadth of her inspiration shows just how much she loves the medium of film. The 1975 documentary Gray Gardens played a part in the mother/daughter relationship depicted in Lady Bird, whilst Little Women’s carriage scene takes visual inspiration from Gigi (1958). Gerwig has even sat down with Letterboxd to talk about the 30+ films that inspired her take on Barbie.

Her Visual Style

Her visual style is subtle and clearly present in the first three films she’s directed. She favours focusing on her characters instead of shooting grand, sweeping camera moves, allowing the audience to feel closer to the performances. With each film she sets out a clear concept and sticks to it: She wanted Lady Bird to feel like the audience were watching a memory, and Little Women’s childhood scenes are meant to have a golden glow about them, symbolising the warmth of a childhood surrounded by family. And with Barbie, you may ask? Gerwig uses the technicolour world of Barbieland as a way to frame her characters, using dream houses and over the top props to help make every Barbie and Ken stand out. 

Barbie is in cinemas now