Frances Ha

Frances Ha ★★★½

This is only the second Gerwig-Baumbach collaboration I’ve seen, but it’s clear the two are the perfect creative match. Gerwig is just too good at playing neurotic, hyperactive characters like this; and Baumbach seems to have a knack for fleshing them out into three-dimensional entities that feel honest and real and exasperating in equal measure. Here Gerwig plays Frances, a broke, 27-year-old dancer struggling to make ends meet in NYC. She is, quite frankly, a bit daft; frequently making terrible, impulse decisions that only make her already desperate money problems that much worse. But her impetuosity is a large part of what makes her character so lovable. She does, at the very least, manage to come off much better than a lot of the other people she meets; many of whom are truly insufferable and self-satisfied—especially Frances’ “best friend” Sophie, who isn’t a very good friend to her at all (at least, she seemed so to me). Nothing much appears to phase Frances though—she keeps going despite being aware that everyone around her has seemingly got a much better handle on their lives and careers than she has. 

I wasn’t completely sold on the dialogue at times here. There’s an improvisational feel to much of it, but some exchanges feel oddly stilted (especially the scenes with Benji, the weird flatmate). Overall though, there’s far more here that I liked than disliked. I’m completely on board with Baumbach’s quick-fire editing style and use of montage. It’s used very effectively here as a means of stitching together the ins and outs of Frances’ frenetic routine; in a way that is both immediately comprehensible and never dull to watch. Weeks or months of Frances’ life are thus condensed into a matter of minutes, but without any aspects feeling like they have been rushed or glossed over. Such a technique risks looking messy if put in the wrong hands, but Baumbach uses it sparingly and at all the right times. It works especially well when the character in focus is every bit as disorderly and scatterbrained as Frances is.

Naturally, this is going to appeal far more to anyone who spent their mid-to late-twenties trying to get by in a big city while apartment-hopping, juggling part-time jobs and scrambling to pay each month’s rent. It’s less relatable to a British guy who grew up in the country and spent his late twenties retraining while living with his parents in the suburbs of the West Midlands... but I could definitely relate to the aimlessness of this specific point in my life, and the being broke part. Less to the sprinting exuberantly down city streets to the tune of Bowie’s “Modern Love”... but there’s still time for that.

More than anything though, I’m just happy I’ve finally joined the club who understands what the deal is with the film’s title. Thankfully, all is revealed in the final frame. It’s rather neat.

Tom liked these reviews