Frances Ha Movie Review
This film may look like one of those annoyingly mannered independent films, with its wacky young cast and arty-farty black and white photography, but it's actually a fresh, smart and very funny comedy. It also features one of the most honest female characters in recent memory: Frances is a true original who is awash in optimism as she tries to navigate the obstacles in her life.
Gerwig has made a career of playing quirky goofballs (see Damsels in Distress), and Frances is definitely offbeat. But she's also likeable and real. She lives in New York with her best pal Sophie (Sumner). But their close bond is strained when Frances' romance with her boyfriend (Esper) collapses while Sophie moves forward with her partner Patch (Heusinger). Now Frances needs to find a new place to live, so she moves in with Lev and Benji (Driver and Zegen). She's also pushing her dance company director (d'Amboise) for more work. While everyone around her is growing up and building their lives, she seems to be going backwards. But she never lets that get her down.
Frances is such an engaging character that we can't help but fall for her. Her relentlessly positive approach to life may seem corny, but she also insists on achieving her goals on her own terms. This may make her progress more difficult, such as when she takes a humiliating job at her old university, but at least she has her integrity. Sort of. Meanwhile the film is punctuated with moments of hilarious slapstick, sarcasm and relationships that ring sometimes painfully true. And at the centre is her strained but unshakable bond with Sophie.
Director Baumbach (Margot at the Wedding) orchestrates this with a light touch that catches every punchline perfectly. The black and white cinematography echoes Woody Allen classics as well as French New Wave movies, but is never remotely pretentious. Instead, it focuses our attention on the spiky character interaction. And several sequences are unforgettable: a hysterical dinner party, a trip to visit her parents in California, a mad dash to Paris. And as we laugh, we can't help but see ourselves in Frances' curiosity and hopefulness, and especially in her awkward happiness.
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