November 21, 2013

Frances Ha

Noah Baumbach, 2013
Frances Halladay (Greta Gerwig) is a 27 year old aspiring dancer who is having a difficult time moving forward. She feels comfortable in her small apartment with her best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner), where they make childish plans for their future, but there are a forces in her life putting pressure on her to progress.

Baumbach's piece is clearly a nod to Woody Allen's Manhattan, but spares a lot of the classic elements for more of a youthful hipster vibe. It's a smart film; heavy on the dialogue but also carrying a lot of sincere weight. Frances could easily come off as annoying, and she does at times. She also comes off as frustrating, but so do a lot of the characters in the film. You get a sense that there is a number of New York's artist community largely dependent, spouting off unenlightened opinions while they sit in their $4000 brownstone apartments smoking cigarettes and drinking whiskey paid for on loans by their wealthy parents. Non-contributors. Frances is guilty of being opinionated herself, but her charm is in her honesty. You wonder if a girl like her ever "turns it off", and perhaps she doesn't. She is immature yet energetic. Reliant yet loyal. She is a nervous intellectual who has two drinks too many and can't seem to stop talking. And sometimes you don't want her to stop talking. When she delivers a brilliant "love dimension" speech, you see that while her dreams may be misguided - there's a sense of pure optimism inside. When she does manage to pull it together to some extent, it almost feels like it all comes too quickly. Was she closing one chapter or was it simply ending the movie? That's not necessarily a knock on Baumbach's story. It's still a rather entertaining experience getting there. She's a square peg of a woman in a round hole of life, effectively and humorously displayed in the final moment of the film.

Greta Gerwig certainly deserves praise for her performance in the film, you get a sense that she did put a lot out there. All in all, Baumbach does a good job of putting it all together nicely with organization and good music but the film doesn't have the lasting impact of The Squid in the Whale or the raw vulnerability of Greenberg. 

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