Frances Ha

Frances Ha ★★★

"I bet it's magic."

Retitled: There's Something About Greta Gerwig

She's got the charm, the smile, the likability of an Amy Adams, but she's also quite monotone in her voice and delivery, her performances feeling quite similar in every film. But damn it if she's not infectiously watchable, even when portraying a flawed, frustrating and often obnoxious character like Frances. In fact, I'd say Gerwig's involvement in Frances Ha (also a co-writer) is almost exclusively the reason to see it, even with its mildly amusing dialogue, short running time, and its being an antidote to all the "bromantic" comedies populating the multiplexes.

This is a film about Frances growing up, slowly, in her late twenties, play-fighting with unwilling participants, overexcited about a tax rebate, prideful of any attempt at taking initiative. But it's also focused on her relationship with best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner), who is the same person with different hair, and how her growth and maturity is leaving Frances behind. Comparisons have been made to the hit HBO series Girls, with its unflinching, unflattering look at flawed female protagonists aimlessly drifting in New York (and Adam Driver), but while I love the week to week agony that is that show, I feel its success is in smaller doses and prolonged connection to the characters. I'd love to see the Frances Ha television show but the film, which is almost a series of episodes divided by each of her location changes, takes some getting used to, the way it quickly transitions without any notice. I eventually grew to appreciate this quality, except for in its conclusion. Until the end we see a downward trajectory, things going poorly for Frances, but when she gets one uptick, one positive transition, it feels much more momentous in comparison to everything else, yet gets the same glimpse, a flash and suddenly credits are rolling. There's a joy in watching Frances dance through the streets midway through the film but otherwise we suffer her awkward interactions with people who seem to tolerate her more than they like her, so to see a moment which could be interpreted as the moment of growth skipped over in a time jump, it's frustrating.

Noah Baumbach is a filmmaker I want to like more than I do. I really loved The Squid and the Whale, but from then on I've been underwhelmed, and though I liked Frances Ha more than not, it's a slight disappointment. Greta Gerwig helps to keep it afloat and may encourage a rewatch in the future, but for the time being I'll just stare at the film's fantastic poster which promised greater things.

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