Frances Ha

Frances Ha photo starrating-3andahalfstars.jpgGreta Gerwig, star and co-writer of Frances Ha, is a good influence on Noah Baumbach. They met when she co-starred in his 2010 film, Greenberg and their collaboration has now yielded something I can actually recommend. I have always had difficulty warming up to the director’s misanthropic view on life. Except for his work with Wes Anderson, his characters have largely been rather repellent. That’s what makes Frances Ha such a nice surprise. Our lead is a comparatively upbeat oddball, albeit infused with an undercurrent of woe. Baumbach’s pessimistic attitude is still there, but you have the feeling that there’s a light at the end of this tunnel.

Frances is a 27 year old living in Brooklyn. She’s an apprentice for a dance company but hasn’t accomplished her dreams to become a full blown dancer. She has a boyfriend, to whom she cannot commit. Conversely she has a very close relationship with her best friend Sophie. However Sophie has recently gotten engaged and is moving out. Now Frances has an apartment which she cannot afford on her own. She attempts to rectify these setbacks with little to no success. Gentle and self-effacing, she charges ahead undaunted by all the curve balls thrown her way. The story is made up of fragmented pieces that yearn to create a fully formed whole, much like our protagonist.

Frances Ha is an amiable slice of life drama detailing a totally realized personality. Baumbach has decided to shoot the action in digital black and white. It lends a picturesque polish to an unforgiving portrait of New York. Her daily frustrations take on a whimsical quality. These problems almost seem like fantasy. At times Frances is endearing, and at others, you just want to shake her until she finds some focus. She exists passively going through life with a certain fatalism that can occasionally grow a little annoying. But on the flip side, there is an awkward charm to Frances. Her conversations defined by the actress’s effortless delivery as if she’s making up her dialogue on the spot. Her date Lev, whom she is treating to dinner, asks what happened when she disappears to get cash from an ATM after her credit card is declined. “I’m so embarrassed; I’m not a real person yet,” she sheepishly replies. She is still a child flirting with adulthood, but at least she is forging an attempt. For once Baumbach offers us a sympatric individual. Greta Gerwig has everything to do with Baumbach’s kinder, gentler direction.  I give my stamp of approval on this romantic and creative partnership.

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25 Responses to “Frances Ha”

  1. Great review. Sounds good. I really liked Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale, but aboslutely hated Greenberg and Margot at the Wedding. Gerwig’s cool, though.

    • The Squid and the Whale = Unpleasant characters acting in revolting ways. A vile hateful film. Sorry! I haven’t watched a Baumbach film since…well until now.

      • I can understand that. I thought they were farily unlikable as well, but not devoid of redeeming qualities. Besides, I loved the performances and the writing. But yeah, those other two films? Just torture for me.

      • The Squid and the Whale got good reviews and I didn’t like it so when Margot at the Wedding got bad reviews I knew it wasn’t for me. Thanks for commenting, Fernando!

  2. Nice review Mark. I wasn’t aware of this but sounds like a decent little film. I was not a fan of The Squid and the Whale though (as I can see above neither were you), but this seems pretty good.

  3. Nice review. I saw a trailer for this a while ago and am eager to check it out.

  4. Good review Mark. It’s the rare Baumbach movie that actually makes me feel pleased to be alive and still be young. Never expected to feel that at all from a movie this guy made.

  5. This looks like a really interesting film. Actually, it seems like the perfect movie for me hahah. I’d also like to see Squid and the Whale.

  6. This was my favorite Baumbach movie. It was cute and quirky. Although Greta’s character was pretty annoying at times, I liked it. 3 stars.

  7. Mark I literally laughed out loud at these opening lines of your review “their collaboration has now yielded something I can actually recommend,” and “Except for his work with Wes Anderson, his characters have largely been rather repellent.” Tell us how you really feel about Baumbach’s previous work haha! I’ve been hearing good things about this film and as an almost 27-year-old myself, I feel like it might speak to me, at least a little bit. I’m pretty sure I have my life a bit more together than Frances, so I’d probably want to shake her too for her immaturity. I still feel like I should check this one out though. Thanks for being brave enough to test the waters first!

  8. Yes….I’m afraid after now seeing this that I won’t want to see The Squid and the Whale, for lack of character likability. . .I’m wondering if his other works are just as quirky (thus in my opinion worth watching) or if this is simply his masterpiece?

    • The Squid and the Whale is the closest Baumbach has ever had to a “hit.” It’s very quirky but the characters are really hateful so you have to find humor in that. I didn’t.

  9. GaryLee828 Says:

    I see this is on netflix instant. You think i would like it?

    • I’d recommend Blue Is the Warmest Color to you before this, but sure why not?

      • GaryLee828 Says:

        I already watched BITWC based on your recommendation. 🙂 I will try to give this one a shot this week.

      • Oh what did you think? Are you going to write a review?

      • GaryLee828 Says:

        No, I won’t be writing a review for it. I actually don’t write many reviews; only when inspired. I am more of a movie recommender than reviewer. 🙂

        I thought BlTWC was pretty good. I didn’t think it was spectacular or anything, but joined my long list of “good” films in 2013.

  10. GaryLee828 Says:

    Okay, I just finished “Frances Ha” and already DL’ed “Modern Love” from i-tunes; great song that I was not familiar with before seeing this. I loved the feel and vibe of this film and the way it was shot and the off-the-wall characters, particularly Frances. The interactions she had with others, especially Ben, was interesting to watch. The film never really had a set direction, so there was nothing formulated, therefore was unpredictable as you just weren’t quite sure what was going to happen next. This is a great light-hearted film you could watch multiple times and unwind to. Sometimes it’s great to watch a movie without that threat of violence or sexual perversion, etc. This would definitely crack the top of my 2013 list had I seen it earlier. It may be the first 2013 film that I think borders on greatness. I loved the final frame when she placed her name in the mailbox; something very memorable about that image. That’s the heart of storytelling.

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