Frances Ha

Frances Ha ★★★★½


My one word summary of this film is delightful. I find my tastes to be harder edge. A friend called a few months ago and asked me to come over a bring a movie. He wanted “something light”. I had to look pretty hard through my DVD collection to find something that fit that description.

It’s not that my tastes are all graphic, either sexually or violently. I would say that my films are particular and sharp. They have a definite edge to them, either stylistically or thematically. They are largely not “pop” films, and therefore usually not for everyone.

FRANCES HA is a wonderful blend of pop sensibility and artistic aspiration. There is a looks that is similar to the black and white films of Woody Allen (MANHATTEN in particular), but there is also some of the whimsy of Fellini and 8 ½. The dialogue is personal, but accessible and relatable. I think this movie could reach a lot of people, without pandering to any of them.

Frances is a 27 year old woman living and working in NY. She starts the film sharing a small apartment with her best friend Sophie. As the movie progresses Frances is put, or better yet puts herself, into a series of situations that will challenge her in a variety of ways. The question is how can Frances endure and thrive and still maintain all that makes up who she is.

I love that this movie isn’t about a woman in a state of arrested development. If she was some rich kid, getting by on her parents money, dorking around NYC this would have been an intolerable film. Instead, she comes from an upper middle class family, but she is trying to be a grown up. At one point when her credit card is rejected (after having gotten very excited about a tax return!) she says “sorry, I’m not a real person yet”. I think this sum up the film very well. She wants to do the right thing and get her shit together, but she isn’t sure how. She makes some of the same type of mistakes we have all made, and we can all feel for her. This movie really charmed me. It sets a perfect tone for its characters and location. It is smart without being that snooty, Upper East Side, pretentious, banter.

No review of this film could be considered complete without mentioning the actress in the titular role of Frances, Greta Gerwig. I can’t imagine any other actress working now that could have played this part better than she. If I was to make a comparison, I don’t think that Audrey Hepburn would be that bad of an example. She does a great job of staying away from the ‘manic pixie dream girl’ character. Zooey Deschanel would have made this movie a sappy mess. Gerwig, who co-wrote the movie with the director and boyfriend Noah Baumbach, gives a performance that is honest and sincere.

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