Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach, 2012)
A story that follows a New York woman (Greta Gerwig) (who doesn't really have an apartment), apprentices for a dance company (though she's not really a dancer), and throws herself headlong into her dreams, even as their possible reality dwindles.
Written by director Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig who also portrays the title character of the movie, Frances Ha, is a sometimes sweet and other times bitter independent comedy that borrows little and much to the French New Wave.
The story is divided in parts with the addresses where Frances lives and at first we discover her friendship à la Jules et Jim with Sophie (Mickey Sumner) where we learn that they made plans just like George and Lenny in Of Mice and Men. Frances herself tells everyone that they are the same person with different hairs. The film centers on this friendship and how it was broken when Sophie went live with a man.
It evolves around the difficulty to swallow your pride and put aside for a minute your dreams and face the responsibilities of adulthood without losing yourself in the process.
Shot in a black and white that easily reminds of the films of François Truffaut, Frances Ha isn’t titled “France” for nothing; with a quick trip to Paris this American independent film wants to blend in an auteuristic way two of the most important currents in movies. Baumbach’s sensibility is to make films like his models: Bergman with Margot at the Wedding or The Squid and the Whale and here he borrows some elements from François Truffaut. With many tunes from Georges Delerue this film got me in the same mood as I was when I first encountered Truffaut, Godard, and Rohmer.
It is also a great character that Gerwig puts on the screen and when I was reading about this movie and its leading woman I discovered that she put a lot of herself into it having her real parents portraying Frances’ parents and getting a semi-biographical angle to her character. She is, in fact, not the typecast beauty actress that the standards have dicted but she brings an angle of girl next door and a sheer sensibility that few A-list actresses are able to attain. Her charming yet naïve presence make the film’s core quality. Added to that to the minimalist but efficient script that Baumbach and her put together, Frances Ha will be enjoyed by a small initiated audience. Because, let’s sadly face it, a black and white independent film won’t go much further than in art houses and cinephile circles.
However, I must admit having had a huge crush with my first encounter with Noah Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale. Since then, I’ve been following his career and enjoying each and every one of his new films. Frances Ha, might be his best film so far and the aforementioned sea animals titled film was in my top 10 of the 2000s decade. One of the best films of 2013, well 2012 I guess.