Frances Ha

Frances Ha ★★★★

I don't subscribe to the notion that filmmakers disliking their own characters is morally reprehensible, but the superiority of what little Baumbach I've seen has always turned me off, the manner that the characters have been set up as such grotesque privileged adult-kids as to allow their maker an easy time burning his own strawmen. FRANCES HA seems to find its characters no less irritating and myopic than elsewhere in Baumbach's filmography, but here at least he meets them on their ground. Frances occupies a very specific space, that of the creative but unsuccessful, bourgeois yet poor twentysomething surrounded by those who manage to be even more insular for the level of comfort they've eked out of connections and a subsidizing family.

It may be narrowly defined, but god damn does it feel real, and Baumbach plays up the strange split of Frances' life, how she can go to France on a whim yet be in a position that seeing the stamp of a federal tax rebate lurches the film into sudden ecstasy as she asks someone out for dinner simply to celebrate that she can, in fact, pay. (That, coupled with her subsequently trying to use a debit card in a cash/credit only scenario, replying "I'm not a real person yet," is so true it hurts.)

Props to the rest of the cast, esp. Mickey Summer as Frances' arch-privileged friend Sophie, but this is Gerwig's movie. Gerwig gave GREENBERG its only breath of life, and here she drags his work into the realm of the human. When the film itself cribs from MAUVAIS SANG, it feels an appropriate reflection of a woman who is talented but not creatively confident enough to make her own number. And her oscillation between ambition and flightiness gives the initial impression of a stereotypical MPDG until she is allowed to define herself on her own terms rather than that of a guy. It's a type in isolation, and it ends up revealing a great deal that previously hung around the margin of lesser movies.