Frances Ha is a charming tale about working your way through your mid-twenties, anchored by a great script and an outstanding lead performance by Greta Gerwig.
In this day and age, it’s easy to feel like you haven’t accomplished enough in life. Particularly in your mid twenties, one might begin to get down on themselves as their friends move on into the real world, get married and have children. The reality is that everyone moves through life at their own pace, and sometimes it takes some people longer to truly grow up, as defined by social norms, and there’s nothing wrong with that. You’d be hard pressed to find a film that captures this awkward period better than Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha.
Written by Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha centers on 27-year-old Frances Halladay (Gerwig), a dancer who lives in New York City with her best friend from college, Sophie Levee (Mickey Sumner). Simply put, Frances is kind of a mess, and it doesn’t help when her best friend announces that she wants to move out of their shared apartment. With her closest friendship strained and now without a place to live, Frances decides to throw herself into her own dreams, even if achieving them seems like an incredible long shot.
Greta Gerwig is delightful as Frances. If you know her more as a director, this will probably be a welcome surprise. She’s so awkward and funny in Frances Ha, and really easy to root for. The story of Frances will definitely hit home for those of us who are not so recent graduates from college. She tries so desperately to find her place in the world and achieve her dreams, but she has no real direction. Having potentially been where she is, the audience begs Gerwig’s character to realize just how dire her financial and living situation has become. Yet, she keeps a smile on her face throughout. That is when we realize that we likely did the same thing, moving through without a care in the world, until we hit rock bottom. It’s all part of growing up: Frances will eventually get to where she needs to be at her own pace. Even when you think she’ll never truly mature, it’s fascinating to watch Gerwig’s character grow.
You’ll likely fall in love with Frances and Sophie’s relationship from the opening scene. Give credit to writers Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig, who craft a friendship between two young females that feels real, rather than contrived. They don’t have the perfect relationship, as the opening scene featuring their various escapades and adventures would make it seem. Throughout the film, Frances and Sophie go through ups and downs that make them feel like a realistic pair of best friends. Not every conflict between the two of them is easily resolved: it takes time for the two of them to hammer out their issues.
The entire film is shot in black and white, which is fascinating because you don’t really see that in modern cinema. It gives it a vintage feel. Noah Baumbach and everyone involved also chose to shoot this like a student filmmaker would, using a Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR camera, which lent to that vintage look. Ultimately, this gives Frances Ha a more casual look compared to what you’d see in a big budget Hollywood production. Despite this difference, it still looks great and features some amazing shots.
Frances Ha has a fantastic soundtrack which includes a number of French instrumental songs that really add to the vintage feel of the film, creating a simple and yet beautiful atmosphere. Modern pop songs are used as well, giving off a modern coming of age film flair when needed. For example, there’s a delightful sequence in which Frances runs through the streets set to David Bowie’s “Modern Love”. Even though it’s a remake of a sequence in Leos Carax’s Mauvais Sang, it’s a lot of fun and it shows off the carefree nature of Gerwig’s character.
Frances Ha runs a mere 86 minutes. However, Baumbach and Gerwig’s script is so well written that it doesn’t really feel that way. There are montages that give you bits of information about Frances’s life and her character, while the dialogue-heavy portions of the film usually house its emotional moments. The script creates a realistic portrayal of a woman in her mid-twenties and her closest friendship and allows us to watch them grow and evolve. That portrayal makes the film relatable to the audience, it’s authentic, everything shown here isn’t always sunshine and rainbows, much like real life.
With its authentic script and relatable lead, played wonderfully by Greta Gerwig, along with that throwback look and feel, Frances Ha makes for a fantastic watch. It’s a film about growth and finding your way through your mid-twenties. If you fall into that age group, this film will likely be very relatable. However, if you don’t, you’ll likely find yourself feeling nostalgic as you watch this film that perfectly captures that period of life. Whether that nostalgia is good or bad, or even whether or not it makes you sad, ultimately depends on your experience in your mid-twenties.