Frances is a girl that pretty much sucks at life, and this said suckage manifests itself in a multiple ways. Firstly, Frances has bad timing. She is never in the right place at the right time. She often makes questionable decision only to have circumstances show her that should have done things differently.
Secondly, Frances is a girl who has very little awareness – spatial or human interaction – of what is going on around her. She doesn’t catch on when guys are interested in her. She doesn’t understand romantic relationship dynamics. She can’t ever recall where she gets her bumps and bruises though she clumsily runs through life.
And all of this ultimately combines to create a character who is both melancholy in her lack of winning in life and likable in her cluelessness (Clueless‘ Tai of today if you will) … and a pretty enjoyable film that captures the search for self in your 20s with a unique voice, look and feel.
Frances Ha represents the film collaboration between writer/director Noah Baumbach (Greenberg) and writer/actress Greta Gerwig. Between the two of them they created Frances, a 27 year old flailing in all aspects of her life in NYC – relationships, career, and finances. We have all been Frances; we all know a Frances. This Frances, however, is aspiring to be a professional modern dancer though she is not terribly great at it. She is relegated to be an apprentice to a company she hopes to join on day and a dance teacher to a group of young kids. Though the director of the company tries to guide Frances into choreography instead, where she seems to thrive, she rebuffs her advice and embraces the struggling artist persona. That’s the biggest problem with Frances. Forces in her life try to lead her in the direction to correct her path in life but she chooses to ignore them and veer clumsily off into the great dark unknown, often to her own detriment and our amusement.
Outside of work, she focuses all her energy into her friendship with her BFF and roommate Sophie (Mickey Sumner), who acts as her caregiver emotionally and financially. Though on the surface the relationship appears to be a codependent one, Sophie soon reveals to be the independent of the two as she decides to move out of their shared apartment to live in Tribeca with another girl (who Frances depises) and to deepen her relationship with her boyfriend Patch (who Frances despises). Frances’ reactions to these things offers a sort of validation to the unhealthy reliance she has on Sophie, humourously often mistaken by strangers to be lesbianism.
And with this anchor of stability gone, Frances begins to meander through the next few months, bunking with people she barely knows including two guys with families that fund their artsy hipster lifestyles (Michael Zegan and the hat-wearing, scene-stealing Adam Driver), attempting to reinvent her close relationship she had with Sophie with others, and trying to make ends meets financially, all while trying to cover up to her friends but drunkenly confiding in strangers just how bad things have gotten.
That is the positive for Frances Ha; the character of Frances who is so integral to the success of the film is never a caricature but a living, breathing, sympathetic person who has hit that “what happened? where is my life going?” moment. This is where I have to give props to both Gerwig and Baumbach for crafting a hard-to-forget character (and cast of characters) that is so much like all of us… in charming black and white no less. The film also teems with comedic quotables delivered with such ease and gives each character his or her own charms.
Final Verdict: Frances Ha is at times a little rehearsed and lacking a truly fleshed out conclusion to anchor the thoughtful pose of the beginning and middle. This keeps it from perfection. However, all in all Frances Ha is a recommended indie underdog tale with heart.