Too easily likened to the early work of Woody Allen, Frances Ha is in fact an ode to that in-between period in a person’s life. The time when all your friends seem to be moving forward, growing up and generally doing what is expected of them, while you’re left wondering if you’ve been left behind or dodged a bullet.
When Frances’ (Greta Gerwig) best friend Sophie (Mickey Summer) informs her that she’s moving out of their apartment, Frances finds herself a bit of a nomad. Trying to keep her flailing dance career on track Frances first moves into Lev’s apartment (Adam Driver) before heading back home for the holidays and finally taking a trip to Paris, but no matter what she does or where she goes Frances is clutching at trying to figure out who she is while all around get on with their lives.
Firmly rooted in the genre or Mumblecore, Frances Ha, like it’s titular character, worries little about the direction it is taking. There’s little plot to invest in, instead a series of encounters in which Frances either behaves in a cutesy childish manner or acts as a slightly unhinged ditz.
Director Noah Baumbach shoots in a sparse, often Allen-esque, black and white. His camera more fly on the wall to Frances’ life than there to evoke anything more than coverage.
Yet Baumbach and Gerwig, who co-wrote the script together, have created something quite magical. Fans of TV’s Girls will no doubt feel at home but it’s less self-indulgent that Lena Dunham and her cohorts. Instead Frances Ha is comically honest, Gerwig floating through life without much care or attention rather than constantly complaining about it.
Gerwig’s performance is simply magical, an innocent, often spoilt, girl trying to prove she’s more than the waif she presents to the outside world. There’s something very real about Frances, a familiarity almost certainly reminiscent of someone you know or knew at a point in your life. She’s warm but often rude, unintentionally funny and painfully awkward in the way she lies to others but more importantly herself. At one point, upon being told she can only pay with cash or credit card, she turns to the waitress and says “I’m sorry, I’m not a real person yet”. What’s so charming is rarely do film characters feel as tangibly real as Gerwig paints Frances.
About as Indie as a film can get, Frances Ha is a skipping, honest and heart-melting look at a girl trying to find her place in the world, and most likely, like the rest of us, failing with breathless style.