The Greta Gerwig Trick That Helps Me Out Every Time I'm Drunk
Over the past couple of months it's been impossible to talk about film at all without mentioning the contributions of Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach. Whether or not the Oscars reward both of them with a a bunch of nominations on Monday morning, the couple made two films that are commonly regarded as some of the best of year: In Baumbach's case, Marriage Story, and in Gerwig's, Little Women.
But I'm not here to talk about those movies. (Frankly, I've written a lot about them already.) Instead, I want to flash back to the first of two movies they wrote together: Frances Ha, which is currently available on Netflix. Thanks to Frances, Gerwig and Baumbach pop into my head almost every time I'm drunk.
When Frances Ha came out in 2013, Baumbach was the acerbic king of indie cinema, while Gerwig was just emerging into the mainstream after her days ruling over the MCU, also known as the mumblecore cinematic universe. They had worked together once before, on Baumbach's Greenberg, but this was the first time they had collaborated on a script. Frances Ha was immediately praised upon release as a note-perfect portrait of an aimless late-twenty-something in New York with a dash of the French New Wave. It was bigger-hearted than Baumbach's other work, and that was largely credited to Gerwig's contributions to the screenplay.
Frances follows its titular character, a 27-year-old aspiring dancer infatuated with her best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner). When Sophie decides to move out of their apartment, Frances' state of bliss comes crashing down. The narrative follows her as she bounces around apartments and cities, looking for a sense of purpose and a sense of place. Frances is -- intentionally! -- a little annoying. Her specific brand of playfulness can grate on people who aren't on her wavelength. But she's also deeply relatable in her not-quite-a-real-person-ness.
But the point of this story is not to explain why Frances Ha is good. It is! You should watch it! Get on Netflix right now! (My hottest Gerwig-Baumbach take is Mistress America is their greater achievement than Frances.) Instead, I'm writing about one very specific scene that has stuck with me. Seriously, I thought about it this week, and not just because I was prepping this piece.
About midway through the film, Frances gets trashed, and her frustration with Sophie and Sophie's banker boyfriend Patch (Patrick Heusinger) erupts in an angry, irrational tirade. The next time we see her she's drunkenly fumbling around her room in the apartment she shares with rich kid hipsters Benji (Michael Zegen) and Lev (Adam! Driver!). Benji finds her rearranging clothes, and they share intimate, if slightly awkward banter. Benji is clearly desperately in love with Frances, but negs her, calling her "undateable." Frances is a little oblivious, more preoccupied with her feud with Sophie than anything Benji is offering, be that noise-canceling headphones or anecdotes how they might end up married one day. Eventually, Frances finishes her puttering and declares, "OK, I'm done. I hope I don't have the spins when I lie down."
And that's when Benji gives her this advice: "Just lay on your back by the edge of the bed. And put one foot on the floor. It helps." He stares at her for a beat before saying, "Good night then."
There's a lot that lingers in his momentary silence, one of which is the ultimate question: "Well, does that trick actually help stop the spins?"
All I can say is that it's been my rotation since 2013. Does it work? Sort of! I guess! As much as anything works when you're super drunk. Nothing will sober you up immediately, but the foot on the floor provides just a touch of comfort and stability. If I've had a little too much, get into bed, and immediately start to feel like the Earth is shifting underneath me, I think about Frances. I pretend, for a second, that my life and my mundane problems are rendered in romantic black and white.
Benji's suggestion somewhat aligns with most counsel that various corners of the internet will issue if looking for a solution to this particular problem. Most say to keep your feet planted on the floor in some way or another. Dollar Shave Club posits that "staring at a fixed object and keeping your feet planted on the ground can provide your brain with enough visual and physical cues to at least ease the false sense of motion." Mental Floss argues that you shouldn't lie down with your eyes closed -- though Benji says nothing about eyes being open or closed -- but that "looking at a fixed object and keeping your feet planted on the ground can help lessen the effect." Some rando on Reddit says to "hang your head over the edge of the bed or off the side off two pillows."
There's a lovely callback to Frances' trashed interaction with Benji later in the movie when Sophie's the one that's now drunk. Sophie has a drag-out spat with Patch at an event Frances is working in her college town. She and Frances haven't seen each other in ages, and their emotions are still raw from their own falling out. But late that night Sophie comes crawling to the dorm room where Frances is living, and Frances cares for her just like old times. She even relays Benji's tip, passing it along to the now struggling Sophie. It works as an overarching metaphor for Frances' journey too: The world may be moving fast around you, but you can attempt to stabilize yourself.
Marriage Story and Little Women might seem like more expansive works from Baumbach and Gerwig, respectively. Both those movies are telling arguably loftier stories than Frances Ha. But, as much as I love them, neither offered me anything as practical as Frances did.
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