Frances Ha

Frances Ha ★★★★½

Frances (Greta Gerwig) and her best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner) co-habit a modest apartment in New York. According to their own personal bedtime story, Sophie is going to grow up to be a high powered literary mogul and Frances is going to be a world famous modern dancer.

They're already pushing thirty.

Together, at least at first, the couple navigate the streets of Hipsterville, more wallflowers than actual participants, hanging at the fringes waiting for an offer to dance. They make the most of it, Frances quite literally (she works as an apprentice at a dance company), and they're content, at least until Sophie takes up an offer to move into a place in Tribeca (she doesn't really like the house mate but it's Tribeca, you know!?). After that, Frances' existence starts to feel a little shaky.

Frances is described, as well as she can be described, through a stream of impressionistic non-sequiters with her incomparable personality as the unflappable light source. Though she may be a complete and utter mess, even by the most lax standards of Western society, her blinding optimism and self-belief is entirely infectious, something Gerwig pulls off without dropping into caricature. The hints of creeping doubt and depressing self-knowing add a dash of complexity to the mix, but it never overrides the flighty tone; it's more a colour addititve than dispiriting navel gazing.

Nods to Woody Allen's Manhattan are inevitable and justly deserved; the two films share a deep love for both the NYC location and its unique inhabitants, but Baumbach's film definitely walks (or at least modern dances) to its own Bowie numbers. The black and white photography is warm and the composition of every shot balances effortless naturalism and very conscious self-awareness. That's all part of the charm.

Gerwig, who co-wrote the breezy screenplay with director Noah Baumbach, has her fingerprints all over Frances. The film feels like a collaboration in the very best of senses and the pair's obvious affection for their creation shines through every frame. Keeping the film free of almost every narrative convention and using some extremely effective cinematic abridgments (Frances can get home to her parent and back with just a ride up and down an escalator and the shot of a plane wing) means nothing really gets in between the camera and Frances, and I'm sure there won't be too many who'll complain about that.

Frances Ha is a wonderfully observed character portrait that's as adorkable as its subject. It's a real heart stealer so be careful with yours. She's already got mine.

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