Meet Frances - she won't let you say no to a play fight
Perhaps it's because I'm in the throes of my very own quarter-life crisis that I enjoyed Frances Ha so much. Directed by Noah Baumbach (of The Squid and The Whale fame) and co-written by Baumbach and Greta Gerwig (who also stars as Frances), there isn't much of a plot. In true mumblecore tradition there are lots of scenes dominated by talking, and rather than raising stakes and rising tensions we are presented with scenes that could be taken from real lives and that I met with growing fondness for the characters.
I quite liked the black and white filming but don't want to enter into a discussion on whether I feel it was really necessary or not. While Frances Ha is a quirky film I felt it came naturally and wasn't overly-deliberate or pretentious.
Frances is an oddball. She doesn't know what she's doing with her life and at times, she doesn't seem to care. Some viewers will find that this aspect of Frances begins to grate after a while but I can understand where she's coming from. Sometimes it's easier to pretend that everything is going how you want it to than to face the reality. She's mostly happy with how things are going until her BFF flatmate, Sophie, moves out.
This is not long after Frances has said no to moving in with her own boyfriend, using living with Sophie and renewing their lease as the main reason not to do so, which leads to Frances and her boyfriend breaking up. When Sophie moves out, it's almost like she and Frances break up too. However, while Frances doesn't seem to care one way or the other about her relationship with her boyfriend coming to an end, when Sophie moves out and the two become estranged, she really takes it to heart.
In the Frances/Sophie friendship though, Sophie is ready to become a real adult, rather than continue the somewhat bohemian 'between college and real life' lifestyle that they have been enjoying up until this point. Frances is not ready for this transition, and even claims at one point in the film that she 'isn't a real person yet' because she doesn't have a credit card.
What follows is Frances trying to get by, staying with friends and acquaintances while she tries to get her life together. During her stay with two guys she develops a bond with Benji, who constantly refers to Frances as 'undateable' but who may in fact wish for more than just friendship with her, to which Frances remains oblivious.
I can see how the meandering nature of the story could turn some viewers against the film but after I realised that the events weren't going to play out like an ordinary film I was more than happy to sit back and enjoy. The soundtrack is great and feels like a celebration of life as it features Bowie's Modern Love and Hot Chocolate's Everyone's a Winner.
Overall I found Frances Ha uplifting and life affirming. I love New York and so the very present New York setting was another aspect that I enjoyed. I found it refreshing that for Frances the most important relationship in her life was with her best friend, and that despite a few scenes featuring very candid sexual discussions, for the most part it steered clear of trying to ramp up the sex to seem cutting edge. In some ways I think I liked Frances so much because she felt like a very real person to me and credit for this has to go to both the screenplay and the luminous performance of Greta Gerwig. I liked that Frances gets along well with her family and her parents and enjoys visiting them. She isn't the kind of character that feels too cool for school.
The film does feel true to life but with a sprinkling of whimsy. It walks a fine line in terms of emotional tone as even while events and Frances' actions might make you feel a little uncomfortable and even when bad stuff happens, it neither romanticises events or wallows. With its rosy take on life and message about making the best out of what you're given, it's also a very funny film.
It endorses celebrating achievements that may seem small to others but are capable of sustaining a person, and finding your own place in the world. Life isn't always big and dramatic and sometimes things that seem to be simple and natural are the things we can take the most pleasure from. Cute, quirky and heartfelt, Frances Ha left me smiling and feeling mindful of the little things in life.