Frances Ha (2013) (R)
More than just being a movie about a woman discovering her true, independent self, "Frances Ha"—the indie darling of the year—is a film about laughter, love, and (dare I say it) life.
The movie, directed by Noah Baumbach, is a insightful look into today's society and the average adult, struggling to make ends meet. Set in New York for the majority of the film and shot in a sleek black-and-white, what really holds the movie together is Greta Gerwig's star turning performance as more than the title character.
The film opens to two friends, the closest of buddies...what is referred to in the "Anne of Green Gables" movies (which my mom watches periodically) as "bosom friends". Their names are Frances and Sophie and they share everything. They live together, eat together, sleep together, and, most importantly, laugh together. Everything is fine with their lives at the movie's opening. Sophie is working at a book publishing company and Frances is chasing her dreams of being a modernist dancer with a company.
The humor of the film is apparent right from the beginning and is embodied in Frances' movements, statements, and personality. She describes her and Sophie as being the same person with different hair, also claiming that they are like an old lesbian couple, minus the intercourse.
The frankness of these two is refreshing to see, but not that original...but then again, it's not an original movie. There have been hundreds of films made about young adults trying to make their way in the world, trying to catch their dream and nail it down.
For the moment, everything seems fine—Frances is with her best friend, there isn't a care in the world, and all clouds have a silver lining.
Then her boyfriend asks her to move in with him; but she doesn't because she feels tied to Sophie. They have a connection and Frances fears what will happen if it breaks...but, of course, it will and it does.
Sophie moves in with another friends, leaving Frances alone...and this loneliness slowly creeps into every part of her life.
She's a single, 27 year-old dancer with no income and no friends. She was always in Sophie's circle, Sophie's friends liked her...now she is isolated. But she's a perky soul, a damaged person with a horrid self-consciousness who has a cheery exterior.
Reeling from the loss of Sophie like it was a death in the family, Frances stumbles around, wrestling with life. Her job starts to fall apart, she moves in with two guys who are living the "good life", and she becomes rather blue.
Why is it that so many comedies are rather tragic when you look at them objectively? I think it's the need to laugh at how pitiful and despicable our lives can be. It's either that reaction, or crying...and I think both would be appropriate. Woody Allen realizes this with his films, and in "Frances Ha" so do
Baumback and Gerwig.
Frances dances her way through borderline poverty, immaturity, and self-discovery. She was only half of a person before Sophie left...now she has to reinvent herself.
Sophie's not gone entirely, but she has become serious with her boyfriend and that throws Frances into a fit of jealously. She wishes to hear of every funny encounter, sad memory, and mediocre moment of Sophie's life...but she can't.
"Frances Ha" is about romance, friendship, and identity. It is smarter than the average movie; but is in no way a masterpiece. Though it is the popular title to pick of indie films of 2013, it's definitely not the best. It boggles my mind that this movie can see such critical acclaim while a movie like Shane Carruth's "Upsteam Color" fades into the background, though it is twice as challenging as anything I've seen made in the last decade.
Whatever you want to say about it, whether you criticize the seemingly unnecessary use of black-and-white (I would disagree here...I think it adds to the film) or whether you don't "get" the way that Frances acts—that's fine. Still, I would think that you're missing out on an emotional journey, a lighthearted comedy—it's a delightful and incredibly warming film. You shouldn't miss it.
Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4
Posted by Micah Jones