“Frances Ha”Directed by: Noah Baumbach Written by: Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwick Starring: Greta Gerwig, Adam Driver, Grace Gummer, Mickey Sumner, Patrick Heusinger, Hannah Dunne
Noah Baumbach’s latest comedy is about a 27 year old young adult trying to get by in today’s contemporary New York City.
But it’s also about how friends, lovers and acquaintances come and go, jobs appear and disappear and life moves on. Never in one straight line. You move from apartment to apartment from borough to borough (this is an especially accurate depiction of today’s life in New York City).
It’s fun. It’s fast paced. It’s funny. It’s “Frances Ha”.
The film opens with cut-up moments of a young contemporary dancer named Frances (Gerwig) living in Brooklyn with her friend Sophie (Sumner) who is into the literary publishing business. They smoke on the fire escape, they pretend-fight in the park, they talk, they eat, they sleep together, they love each other, they’re best friends. You could say it’s a sweet and sour portrait of today’s life of young artists in the city but without falling into the romanticism of how New York used to be. To compare it as other critics have to HBO’s “Girls” is falling a little short, instead I think a more fair comparison would be to Woody Allen’s “Manhattan” or “Annie Hall”, in the sense that the comedy rises from the awkwardness of everyday situations and written in a unique and sophisticated way.
We see the world according to Frances. And although she is neurotic, spontaneous and even a little irritating sometimes we still view the world through her lens. A part from a good screenplay with good naturalistic dialogue and realistic scenarios, it is still the performance of Greta Gerwick that really makes the whole thing come alive. Her eccentricity and character makes her likable enough to understand her irrational yet fascinating decisions like traveling to Paris for just a weekend.
The choice of black and white is more nostalgia than aesthetics. It bares the image to the bone and brings out the dialogue. The whole film seems to have a feel of a collection of moments. The scenes seem to be cut quickly sometimes right in the middle of the conversation. We just get a taste of the situations instead of having long and extended shots. In “Frances Ha” the shots are simple and well framed combining the early style of Jim Jarmusch with a pitch of François Truffaut.
Like most Noah Baumbach films, “Frances Ha” is filled with memorable lines and quotes, one of them is said by Sophie: “The only people who can afford to be artist in New York are rich” when she is looking around France’s new 4,000 dollar apartment whom she shares with two other “artists”. Another memorable quote is said by Frances when she is asked what is exactly her profession, she answers: “It’s complicated”, then she is asked by the same person: “Is it because what you do is complicated?” she answers: “No, it’s because I don’t do it”. That could actually be a very good description of at least 90% of artist living in this city. It’s complicated because we don’t do it.
It’s a good film. Go see it. It’s playing at the IFC Center in the West Village.