Frances Ha

Frances Ha ★★★★½

"I'm so embarrassed; I'm not a real person yet."

After the commercial catastrophe of Greenberg, director Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig decided to collaborate on a vastly more economical project. Together they fashioned a spare but ticklish character study of a wayward twentysomething with codependent tendencies struggling to attain a measure of financial independence and professional gratification.

Though highly episodic in nature the film follows Frances Halladay (Gerwig), at twenty-seven an ungainly apprentice for a small New York City dance company. Making rent with best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner) in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn is hard enough, but soon Sophie unexpectedly decamps for upscale Tribeca, leaving Frances spinning her wheels in a series of makeshift living arrangements. Already reeling from a lack of financial security and feelings of personal abandonment, Frances receives sobering news about her potential future with the dance company. Following a series of comical missteps our manic-pixie-woman-child arrives at a modest inflection point.

Frances Ha was shot digitally on a consumer-grade HD camera and subsequently converted to glossy black-and-white, though frankly I couldn't tell; visually I was reminded more of Woody Allen's Manhattan than the Nouvelle Vague influences Baumbach cites (though his love for these films is evidenced by all the Georges Delerue on the soundtrack). The film works because Baumbach and Gerwig produced a script that is not only consistently amusing but also very revealing. Though modest in scope Frances Ha keenly depicts the burden of financial insecurity and its attendant mental and emotional toll, which is admirably foregrounded over the importance of romance as a determining factor in the formation of Frances' incipient adult identity.

Gerwig's performance is a remarkable one. It's to her credit that she was willing to embrace the least likable aspects of the character. Her mixture of arrogance, dopiness and self-flagellation strikes me as utterly convincing and deeply affecting even when infuriating. Sumner gives a winning supporting turn, though far less is asked of her. Adam Driver and Michael Zegen epitomize affluent fuckboy ease as Frances' erstwhile roommates.

I won't bother much with chiding Baumbach over his unwillingness to credit Leos Carax for the "Modern Love" sequence because my dearest darling is all fired up about it. Instead I'll have a chuckle over the Criterion Collection DVD supplements. As dear readers may or may not already know, Baumbach left his wife (Jennifer Jason Leigh) for Greenberg star Greta Gerwig in 2010 in a manner not dissimilar to Peter Bogdanovich abandoning his wife (Polly Platt) for Cybil Shepherd during production of The Last Picture Show. Imagine my surprise when I saw that Bogdanovich interviewed Baumbach about Frances Ha. Their analogous divorce stories never came up unfortunately.

Some stray notes:
-NO FEET!
-I'LL GIVE YOU $200 TO GET NO CATS
-THE ANIMALS HAVE TO TALK OR BE AT WAR FOR ME TO BE INTERESTED
-SHOULD I TEXT HIM BACK "STARBOARD ANAL SEX"?
-THIS MAKES ME FEEL LIKE A BAD MOTHER IN 1987
-TOTAL RICH KID APARTMENT
-YOU GOT THIS…MONEY-WISE
-I KNOW THAT—I SEE DOCUMENTARIES
-I'M GOING TO THIS FREE APARTMENT OF THIS DUDE
-YOU HAD TO TAKE THE FUCK-TRUCK TO HOBOKEN
-THIS DOUCHE IS MY AFFIANCED
-YOUR GRANDPA WAS A CHEATING NAZI!
-HOW THE FUCK DO YOU GET TO CHUGGINS?
-I LIKE THINGS THAT LOOK LIKE MISTAKES

In my New York movies ranked list.

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