Can we just go ahead and agree that the actress Greta Gerwig is (for better and for worse) our generation's Katherine Hepburn? Adore or despise, she is a force of nature, something to be reckoned with. Here, she makes vaguely misanthropic director Noah Baumbach put down his torturer's tools in favor of something positively humane. (Maybe it helped that she co-wrote the screenplay.) Mind you, Baumbach still puts his heroine through her paces: her disappointments on nearly every front — love, money, artistic dreams, even friendship — are expressed by her increasingly unsexy living arrangements. (It's New York City, so where you live says even more about who you are than usual.) But the suffering isn't of the numbing-dumbing variety; instead, it's the thresher that separates the wheat from the chaff. The black-and-white images of the city, the pathology of bad relationships, and Gerwig's awkward glamor will surely recall Woody Allen's Manhattan, but then, there are worse things to recall. (2013) — Matthew Lickona
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