Posted by: ckckred | December 10, 2013

Frances Ha

Greta Gerwig

A friendship with Wes Anderson has gotten Noah Baumbach a long way.  The director has long been experimenting with many of the forms that have defined the Andersonian tone, references to the French New Wave, homages to filmmakers such as Scorsese, and so on, with the main difference between the two is that Baumbach’s world is more in depth with reality.  Frances Ha, the newest movie by the filmmaker, exhibits many of the traits Baumbach has built over the years and almost plays as a remake of Woody Allen’s Manhattan.  Its attempt for greatness isn’t completely successful, as often times the picture loses its footing, but Frances Ha is a charming comedy.

Greta Gerwig, who wrote the screenplay with Baumbach, plays the title character, an eccentric 27-year college graduate trying to find a career as a dancer in New York City.  Frances lives in an apartment with her best friend Sofie (Mickey Sumner), who is just as giddy and upbeat as her (the two constantly run around Manhattan playing and pulling pranks on each other in a beautifully filmed montage).  At one point, Frances declares that she and Sofie are like “a lesbian couple that doesn’t have sex anymore,” a deep comparison for a deep friendship.

Yet Frances’ life soon goes astray as Sofie decides to move out of the apartment with another friend in Tribeca.  Frances first moves in with two hipsters, played by Adam Driver and Michael Zegen, but after some financial woes caused by her difficulty as a dancing apprentice is forced to move elsewhere.

Despite the many allusions to Jean-Luc Godard, Frances Ha actually bears more resemblance to another comedy in 2013, The World’s End, which came a few months later.  They have protagonists struggling to mature in a grown-up world.  That comparison ends there (after all, The World’s End does involve a Body Snatchers-like plot), but the idea is core to both films.  Frances’ childlike approach to life renders her constantly in debt and in trouble as she distances herself from everyone around her.  Gerwig plays the part of Frances perfectly, evoking the adolescent innocence of her character while maintain the quirky tone.  Sam Levy’s black and white cinematography also helps reveal the strife of Frances; the saturated colors much evoke the bleakness of New York as well as many of the silent comedies by Charlie Chaplin.

For all its strengths, though, I felt that Frances Ha never really evenly balances the realism and fantasies of its characters and wanders in many scenes (Frances’ trip to Paris and her Christmas vacation don’t really have any real importance in the picture).  Often times the characters grow a bit overbearing and hard too relate too and there feels to be a lack of connection between them; a hinted romance between Gerwig and Zegen never moves anywhere.

Yet for all of its flaws, Frances Ha is continuously enjoyable.  Noah Baumbach isn’t quite as adept as Wes Anderson, but he certainly is greatly improving as a filmmaker.

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Responses

  1. Nice review and I agree with you. I had a hard time relating to the characters and because of it I did not enjoy it. I liked the black and white look though and thought Gerwig did a good job.

    • Thanks! I enjoyed the movie, but a lot of the characters felt unnecessary, though Gerwig did do an excellent job.

  2. Wanted to see this at the cinema but missed it. Definitely want to catch it at some point though. Nice review mate.

    • Thanks! I didn’t love Frances Ha, but it’s an enjoyable watch.

  3. Nice review. And I agree.

    • Thanks! It was fun, if a bit overrated.

      • Agreed on that point, as well.

  4. Enjoyed this one quite a bit. Simple but smart and it really worked for me. Good review bro.

    • Thanks! That’s a great way to sum it up. Not a perfect movie but a very enjoyable one.

  5. One of the happiest, pleasure-filled movies I’ve seen about life in awhile. And that’s coming from the finger-tips of a guy who absolutely loathes Noah Baumbach’s movies. The guy can be such a negative Nancy, with even less-likable characters that it’s almost too hard to ever care about the movies he does or the people in them. That all changed here. Good review.

    • Thanks! Yeah, Baumbach definitely turned his style more upbeat for Frances Ha. I’d like to see him work on another movie with Gerwig.

  6. Nicely done. I worried that Gerwig would annoy me as much as she did in Damsels in Distress. To be fair to the film I should give it a balanced view.

    • Thanks! Gerwig’s in strong form, though she is a bit annoying in the movie at times.

  7. I didn’t know Noah Baumbach was good friends w/ Wes Anderson, I guess that makes sense as both have a certain quirky style. Haven’t seen this one and I’m not familiar w/ neither Baumbach nor Gerwig. This will be my intro to both 🙂

    • Thanks for the comment. I only found at the Baumbach was friends with Anderson from an AV Club article I read about. It’s a good intro to his work as this is probably his most accessible movie.

  8. Gerwig is downright fantastic in this but I agree that her indecisions to change her life became a bit of a chore after awhile. Nicely reviewed Ck.

    • Thanks! The movie does lose its way after a while, but it’s fun.

  9. Nice review, man. I wasn’t sure what to expect with this film, but I really enjoyed it. Gerwig is a lot of fun to watch.

    • Thanks! I agree, it was very enjoyable and Gerwig did a good job.

  10. Fine work sir! I’ve enjoyed Baumbach’s previous outings so I’m quite up for this one.

    • Thanks! I enjoyed Baumbach’s previous work. I didn’t like this as much as his other movies, but it’s good nevertheless.


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