“Frances Ha” is admittedly not normally my type of movie, but I was sporadically entertained by its down-to-earth charm. Filmmaker Noah Baumbach, who skyrocketed to indie fame after acquainting us with a cast of outrageously cruel, petty, narcissistic characters in “The Squid and the Whale” (I guess I’ve made my stance clear on that movie,) squares in on the lifestyle of the big-city intellectual again in “Frances Ha,” but at least now the characters are tolerable.
Greta Gerwig gives a amiable performance as well-meaning, somewhat ditzy college grad Frances Halladay, who aspires to make it as a dancer. Her BFF is the bespectacled and kind of bitchy Sophie (Mickey Sumner,) and and two are as devoted as two friends ever were. When Sophie prepares to move to Japan with her boyfriend who she doesn’t really love, ‘Patch’ (Patrick Heusinger,) Frances feels lost without her best friend, and her life starts to veer off the the tracks.
Not a lot happens in this film. What’s special about it is the real-life quality of the acting and dialogue. However, I did not like this as much as similarly naturalistic “Wendy and Lucy” because there was no high drama. I know, not every life contains a lot of intense drama. But in that movie Michelle Williams was struggling to keep her head above water financially and her fight to provide for her and her dog. She has a goal. Live. Or starve. We can’t look away.
Frances simply flounders. She complains about money, but scrounges up enough to take a trip to Paris where she never leaves her apartment. She lives with two hipsters for a while and it seems like something romantic is going to happen with one of them, but nothing ever does. She wants to dance, but lacks the talent to make it happen. Frances is a nice girl, but the film lacks immediacy.
However, there are pleasures to be had from watching this movie. There is something to be said for getting entangled in a characters life, uneventful as it might be. Frances is a well-written character, and all the side characters seemed real. The down side- the astonishingly tasteless moment when drunken Sophie *SPOILER WARNING* stoically describes the miscarrying of her unwanted baby as ‘cool’ *END OF SPOILER*. Ouch. It’s hard to have sympathy for her after that.
I like the way this movie deals with the everyday awkwardness of relationships. The social difficulties Frances faces never seem forced or exaggerated. Anyone who has said something they later wish they hadn’t (that’s everybody,) drunk or sober, can relate to Frances. The film chronicles little moments on Frances’ journey to become a self-made woman. I’m down with that. I just wish the story had been a little more arresting.
Note- This film is in black and white. Resident whiners and trolls beware. No it is not in color. No we do not need to hear how ‘behind-the-times’ or ‘pretentious’ the filmmaker is. You have been warned.