Frances Ha

Frances Ha ★★★★

There's a particular way that slightly confused strangers meeting Frances (Greta Gerwig) for the first time size her up in Noah Baumbach's movie. They're wondering if she's putting on some sort of act, how much substance there is beneath the kookiness, if she's the sort of person they'd like to get to know.

I approached the film in a similar way. For starters, I'm asking myself very early on why I'm being asked to view Frances' New York City world in monochrome. Is this trying too hard to emulate the French New Wave, or Manhattan, and is it meaningful? With Frances and her flatmate Sophie having the sort of highly-evolved close friendship that can make newcomers feel shut out, I'm also wondering if I'm going to find them entertaining or annoying for the next 90 minutes.

The only other Gerwig film I'd seen had been The House of the Devil which probably doesn't do full justice to her acting range. As, despite cautionary first impressions, her performance is layered and endearing. Wide-eyed enthusiasm one minute, mixed-up vulnerability the next, searching to escape 'quirkyalone' status and find success through increasingly desperate scenarios.

The reasons for Baumbach shooting in black and white become clear - Frances may be scatty but there's a passion for refined beauty there too. She hopes to find it in dance, in relationships, even in Paris - an elusive silver lining to her life that she may or may not achieve. However, the occasional pratfall or emotional mis-step demonstrates she's not as slick as everyone else in the city, and that contrast is what makes her and the film so watchable.

(Additional reading: I recommend this article on the cinematography of Frances Ha on CreativePlanetNetwork.com. )

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