FRANCES HA is a platonic love story between two best friends as well as a love letter to New York City. A slight yet arresting coming-of-age tale from the mumblecore genre, Baumbach shoots in black and white to beautiful effect. What is created is an offbeat, endearing and sensitive film; think Woody Allen meets Lena Dunham.
Frances, played by co-writer Greta Gerwig, is a 27 year old modern dancer besotted with her best friend. It seems an idyllic relationship; Frances may have an unsteady job, a tedious relationship and little money, but it’s ok. New York is exciting and romantic rather than cold and unforgiving. However, when Sophie decides to move out, Frances’ life is sent into free fall, her living situation as unreliable as her job – and her nickname, ‘Undateable’, becoming quite literal. What Baumbach documents is the inevitable cutting of the umbilical cord between two friends and the floundering that ensues as Frances apartment hops across New York.
Greta Gerwig’s raw vulnerability is endearing without being irritating, and she is a truly captivating talent.
This awkward comedy has a sense of tragedy about it. Greta Gerwig’s raw vulnerability is endearing without being irritating, and she is a truly captivating talent. Frances has a beautiful innocence and resilience about her, a Bambi in an indifferent city, wearing her heart on her sleeve and struggling to find her feet. There’s a wonderful continuous montage of her dancing through the streets of New York, exuberant and ecstatic about nothing in particular.
Frances has a beautiful innocence and resilience about her, a Bambi in an indifferent city, wearing her heart on her sleeve and struggling to find her feet.
The film is nostalgic for being young and in New York. At one point Sophie commiserates the modern skyscrapers of Japan and is wistful for the old skyscrapers of her home, correlating the city with her passing youth. Black and white lends perfectly to this idea, stirring an odd sense of nostalgia for the present.
Adam Driver supports with his oddball charm, and although Sophie is not a particularly fascinating character, the film is really about Greta Gerwig’s Frances. Nervy and uncomfortable, Frances first irritates and then mesmerises the guests at a dinner party as she drunkenly professes what she wants out of life. Although similar films’ appetite for climactic dance finales can be irritating, this one is appropriately inconclusive as an inevitable disillusionment settles in. Baumbach and Gerwig’s film is a rare gem on growing up and tragicomedy of it all.