On a slow night, I found myself browsing for a movie to watch. I have such a short attention span, that I have barely made it through any of the long list of movies in my streaming queue. After watching Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg some time ago, I’ve had Frances Ha on my to-watch list for ages, but I still hadn’t done so. So after some time rolled by and I needed something to fill my time, I finally marked another movie off of my list.
Director & Writer: Noah Baumbach
STARRING: Greta Gerwig, Mickey Summer, Adam Driver, Michael Zegan
Prior to being a critically acclaimed director, Greta Gerwig cemented herself as an indie darling leading films such as Greenberg and 20th Century Women. She’s also one of the leading ladies of the Mumblecore movement- a style of (mostly low-budget) film centered around natural settings, dialogue (mostly improvised), and subjects in their twenties and thirties.
A fine exhibition in the Mumblecore style, Frances Ha is filmed entirely in black and white- allowing focus entirely on protagonist Frances and her interactions with everyone around her. Dialogue and relationships are the crowning achievements in this film. While the film is set in New York, the locations are of little importance, allowing viewers to take in the atmosphere of Frances’ life.
Frances Ha is a coming of age story for the “starving artist” crowd. While this film is very reflective of a white and hipster demographic, it does speak to anyone who is following their dreams. It specifically speaks to those who are faced with reality as they work towards them. It depicts the rough transition from sort-of adulthood to real adulthood and the emotional maturity that comes along with it. I’ve felt some similar sentiments. While I’m an adult, I don’t quite feel like an adult.
Frances is an aspiring dancer, who lives with her best friend Sophie. They are so close, they describe themselves as an “old lesbian couple”. Attached at the hip since college, Frances and Sophie share an incredible bond. However, the bond is rocked as Sophie makes plans to move out. While Sophie seems to be moving on to bigger things, Frances is still stuck in a rut. Like many millennials post-college, Frances is chasing a dream- and things just don’t seem to be working in her favor. With the lack of gainful employment, Frances becomes financially strapped and floats from home to home in the city. At her next home, she rooms with two fellow artists Benji and Lev. She creates a new bond with Benji- founded on their failing aspirations, and being “undateable.”
Throughout the film, Frances is depicted as a bit self-absorbed and lost. In true Mumblecore fashion, Frances’ conversations are long and drawn out and awkward, and in some scenes, while the conversation isn’t about her- she manages to flip them around. She talks a lot of nonsense, and sometimes struggles to explain her situation- or lies about completely. Of course not being where you want to be or think you should be is a huge source of embarrassment.
As the film progresses, we get to see Frances’ fragility as her life begins to change. She becomes a bit more sympathetic. Like many in her position, she’s dependent on others for support. As that support system evaporates, Frances is forced to navigate life on her own. Sophie is engaged, her other friends are living their lives. Frances’ parents can’t afford to help out anymore.
After a string of bad decisions, and a disastrous reunion with Sophie, Frances comes to her senses. She comes to the realization that she’s not meant to be a dancer at the company she works for. She takes an administrative job there and utilizes the facilities for her own choreographed work. Towards the end of the film, Frances seems to have grown up- having taken responsibility for her actions and found a sense of peace in her direction in life. She dedicates herself to choreography, something else she is passionate about, and she rekindles her relationship with Sophie.
At the conclusion of the film, Frances shows a lot of promise. Frances has finally found her own apartment- a sign of upward mobility and liberation in the modern age- especially in a place like New York City. She goes to her mailbox and looks hopefully as she labels the box with her name. She seems to be doing just fine.
A realistic look at modern twenty-somethings, Frances Ha shows the ups and downs of live as it’s thrown at us. It has an optimistic ending, and I can only hope most of us are that lucky when it comes to working towards our dreams.
Thanks for reading,
ADRIANA, THE CINEMA SOLOIST