Frances Ha

Frances Ha ★★★★½

Noah Baumbach does for Greta Gerwig what Jean-Luc Godard did for Anna Karina. He paints a beautiful portrait of her and her city with gorgeous Lo-Fi aesthetics and saturated in love and iconic Georges Delerue themes. Baumbach also does for Gerwig what Godard did not do for Karina, he invites her to help create a self-portrait, to write her story. Rather than artist and muse, you have muse as collaborating partner. The artist’s/lover’s gaze is supplemented with how the subject sees herself. The result is simultaneously an homage to the French New Wave and to his new life partner.

We follow Frances through a progression of ever-changing addresses shown as title cards that break the movie into a series of tableaux. Frances is never gonna fall for modern love.

We see in Frances a blithe buoyancy, a secret smile and a conviction that despite her current situations, she is meant for some kind of greatness. Gerwig’s imbues Frances with what in hindsight she must have seen in herself (and which probably no one outside of Baumbach could see) — that she was meant for greatness. Viewers watching Frances Ha in 2013 would ever guess that this quirky thirty year-old with only some mumblecore and a great turns in a Whit Stillman movie and Baumbach’s Greenberg, would write and direct two movies that would both be nominated for Best Picture and Best Screenplay?

Gerwig and Frances also temper Baumbach’s acerbic wit with joy and optimism. This film seems now like the lily pad that allowed him to jump from Squid and the Whale to Marriage Story.

I assume the top executives at HBO never saw Frances Ha, or they would have immediately cancelled Girls.

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