f r a n c e s h a
26th July 2013
Greta and Mickey
26th June 2013
Some films just restore your faith in cinema, plain and simple. Frances Ha is one of those. It sees Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig reunited, this time Gerwig co-writing the script and their collaboration is stronger for it.
Frances is a twenty something wanna be contemporary dancer. Like most women of this age she has little faith in herself or her abilities and is clumsily crashing through life whilst her beloved best friend Sophie seems to propelling skyward away from her.
Seldom has female friendship been represented so fair and so true in a cinematic medium. The relationship between Frances and best friend Sophie is beautiful, difficult and honest. The nuances, eccentricities and emotional demands are so well represented here sometimes it felt like watching a documentary. The girls discuss tricky subjects such as abortion, money, each other and the world in an utterly frank way. This can be attributed to a few things, namely script and directing but at its very heart it is because of the two extraordinary performances by Mickey Sumner and Greta Gerwig. Sumner's portrayal of smart, more self assured Sophie is perfect. It's utterly honest, beguiling and a pleasure to watch. Greta Gerwig's Frances is also a complete charm, saddled with some quirks that mean she is labelled 'undateable' and frequently falling over verbally and physically. Gerwig uses her physicality well, she is tall and there are a wealth of visual gags such as her tall frame crammed into a tiny, very slow lift ascending to the Paris apartment. It is very much Gerwig's movie and she manages to own the film from the moment she arrives on the screen. It is a very accomplished comic-dramatic performance.
Sophie's better paid job means she moves away to Tribeca, and circumstances mean Frances moves in with Benji (Michael Zegan) and Lev (Adam Dexter), two rich hipsters, one an artist and the other an aspiring writer. I think. It's never really clear but as Sophie says 'only rich kids get to be artists in New York'. Benji has some of the best lines, he tells Frances he is working on a version of Gremlins 3 and they have an old fashioned relationship where they watch movies and Benji jumps on her bed. They're like girlfriends and don't sleep together, although Benji did want to but as Frances points out, he is far too short. Adam Driver continues the good work he did in Girls although Lev is physically and emotionally more attractive than the Adam from Girls. The scene where Lev tries his usual schtick to seduce Frances is hilarious, mostly for her reaction. I wish I was single so I could try it.
Noah Baumbach is paying homage to Truffaut and Godard here. The playful use of 1960s French film scores composed by Georges Delerue and also in the composition. Scenes play with a mixture of moods yet it all happily sits together in its upbeat, hipster black and white world, without becoming trying or annoying. It simply makes one happy. There are moments of utter sweetness such as Frances teaching little girls ballet, or Sophie telling Frances 'the story of us' again then there are moments of bum clenching embarrassment such as the dinner party scene where Frances seems to lose her identity completely. Filmed in black and white and on location in New York, Frances Ha has been compared to Woody Allen and Girls. I am not a fan of Woody Allen (yeah, shoot me) but whilst of course one can see similarities in the dialogue and the settings but for me Allen's movies certainly don't have the same sweetness and joi de vivre that Frances Ha has. As for Girls, well yes they both have young women going through life experiences but tonally they couldn't be more different. Frances Ha is irrepressibly upbeat. The scenes of Frances running and jumping through the New York streets to David Bowie's Modern Love is a cinematic ray of sunshine.
You see, the thing about Frances is - you know her, you like her, you have been/are her. She is a calamity, a disaster but she is life and light and, well, human. One of the best female characters I have seen in too long a time cinematically and an utter delight from start to finish. Just go see it.
Check out the trailer here: