Movie Review: Frances Ha

Greta Gerwig is Frances Ha

I’m going to get this out of the way immediately… if you like HBO’s Girls, then you will adore Noah Baumbach’s (The Squid and the Whale, Greenberg) latest film, Frances Ha.  If that is not your cup of tea, you may not enjoy this film very much.  Fortunately, I fall into the former category and thoroughly enjoyed Frances Ha.

The film opens with Frances (Greta Gerwig, who also co-wrote the film along with her paramour, Noah Baumbach) being asked to move in with her boyfriend.  She doesn’t want to leave the apartment she shares with her best friend, Sophie (Mickey Sumner… Sting’s daughter), so she declines the offer and gets dumped immediately thereafter.  That would be bad… but then she finds out that Sophie is moving in with her boyfriend and they will be getting married soon… thus thrusting Frances into the unknown.

The film focuses on the aimlessness of being in your late twenties with little more than hopes and aspirations to show for your existence.  Frances wants to live in New York… but can’t find a place to live… and throughout the film, we follow her movement via title cards giving the city and zip code of each new habitation.  She works as an apprentice dancer for a local company… but isn’t even a dancer and may be in jeopardy of losing her job.

Eventually, she finds herself sinking further and further away from what she believes to be her dreams… yet, she approaches everything with a certain lightness and carefree attitude that you are left enjoying her company, while also feeling nothing but sadness and pity for every bad decision and awkward moment we share with her.

I found so much to love in this film… from the filming in black and white which gives it a feeling evoking Francois Truffaut and the French New Wave, to the utter charm that Greta Gerwig seems to ooze, even when she is making the aforementioned bad decisions, such as going on a trip to Paris for two days, which doesn’t leave her enough time to even get over the jet lag she experiences and thrusts her into a debt that she didn’t need.  As much as the film occasionally borders on the depressing, it manages to stay on the side of frivolity just enough for the audience to still engage with the character and find something redeemable in her quirky mannerisms and her lack of direction.

The Paris scenes in particular stood out to me… they reminded me very much of the three days I had spent in the city when I was 18.  I had nowhere to be… nothing to do… and simply didn’t really know what to do with myself other than visiting museums and taking in the atmosphere, and without someone to share in an experience, what’s the point?  I believe much of Frances Ha boils down to just that… without someone to share your life with, whether it’s a best friend or a lover… what’s the point?  Frances needed to figure that out and do what is right for herself, and find a way to ground her existence.

It’s simply a pleasure to see a film for people about people again… there were no robots, no monsters, no zombies, and not a single explosion to be found… and the theater I saw this in, the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center, is an incredible theater to see smaller independent films in as well as being a great reminder of the now defunct Bay Theater, the small indie theater I worked at when I was younger in Seal Beach, California.

Frances Ha is a very smart film… much smarter than I am… and I’m certain that I’ve missed some major thematic elements… but from my limited perspective, I found Frances Ha to be charming, wonderfully funny at times, and painfully on the nose at others.

Hey look, it’s Adam,
Cornelius J. Blahg

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