My mom used to say the trouble with being in your 20’s is not realizing how ridiculous you’re usually behaving. My take on it is that everyone should have periods of ridiculousness as often as possible, or we end up becoming bitter and shriveled in our old age.
“Frances Ha” is a case in point. The title protagonist (played excellently by Greta Gerwig) is a 27-year-old drifter and dreamer in New York City, wandering from one friend’s apartment to another. This might have been fine back in, oh, around 1993, but times have changed, and it’s increasingly difficult for dreamers/drifters to exist anywhere — let alone in one of the most expensive cities on Earth. It is, in fact, ridiculous. Still, Frances gets by, seemingly on her supply of sheer magnetic charm and many glasses of wine.
Directed by Noah Baumbach (“The Whale and the Squid”), this is the kind of cozy/funny indie movie that once came out of NYC, back in the days when the city’s delis made great bagels — before Starbucks ruined it for everyone. But let’s not go there.
|Rating||out of 5|
|Run Time||86 minutes|
Shot in beautiful black and white, and showing Manhattan streets in a way that would make Woody Allen jealous (Baumbach gives frequent nods to Allen’s 1979 opus “Manhattan”), “Frances Ha” is, to put it simply, an irresistible piece of junk jewelry that you must have, to take home and wear forever and ever.
The film is by no means flawless. Like Frances herself, it’s often clunky and awkward, offering no apologies and expecting only forgiveness. Frances is like that: a veritable puppy hovering hopefully around your ankles, waiting to be loved. She’s an apprentice dancer who’s always trying out some move or another on the sidewalk or in someone’s living room. But when asked what she does for a living, her reply is emblematic of the way she conducts her life — “It’s hard to explain because I don’t really do it.” This can be annoying to some and endearing to others, but fortunately for Frances her best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner) really, really likes her.
In many ways, “Frances Ha” is a love story, charting the ups and downs of a relationship between two young women who are more than friends but not sexually involved. Frances feels so close to Sophie she says they are the same person “with different hair,” and would have been happy to go on living like that if Sophie’s wasn’t moving in with new boyfriend Patch (Patrick Heusinger). Suddenly displaced, Frances tosses about in Manhattan’s sea of apartments like a little dinghy in a storm. Though she senses herself sinking, she does her best to remain her sweet, exuberant self.
Baumbach is alert to the small incidents of hurt and alienation that assail Frances, as well as the youthful energy that allows her to bounce right back, over and over again. When she dances alone on the streets, it’s as though she’s proffering herself to the gods of youth and ridiculousness. If she could only stay in this place forever — uniquely lovely in a way she’ll never be again.