Title: Frances Ha
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Director: Noah Baumbach
Cinematography: Sam Levy
My second film of the NYC indie director Noah Baumbach, after his much-acclaimed indie darkhorse THE SQUID AND THE WHALE (2005), although his muse has shifted from Jennifer Jason Leigh to the new indie-hotshot Greta Gerwig now, who stars as the titular protagonist and is the co-writer of this film.
Shot entirely in Black & White (or more specifically, it is digitally shot first and then transmuted into monochrome to discharge a feeling of nostalgia), the opening montages snappily show audiences the intimate friendship between Frances Ha (Gerwig), a 27-year-old amateur dancer in NYC, and her best friend Sophie (Sumner), and they have been inseparable since college and share an apartment as well. Ten minutes later, Frances flippantly breaks up with her boyfriend Dan (Esper) simply because she cannot accept Dan’s proposal of living together in his place as she still prefers to live with Sophie.
So, it goes without saying that Frances is a quirky girl who has never really matured into adolescence, as she jests, “I’ll be the girl with acne and holding more acnes”, she and Sophie are both straight, thus their affinity is just like two lesbians who do not have sex. But Sophie is not as a constant as Frances, she is a variable, pretty soon, she needs to get rid of Frances and pursues her ideal goal of life, living in a better apartment, finding a matching boyfriend, and eventually relocates to Japan with him. It should be and actually it is a tough blow for Frances, yet, as jaunty as her, she will not be beaten up by it, although the wound is deep enough for her to wantonly set up a weekend sojourn alone in Paris against her poor financial status and the dim future as a professional dancer.
Meanwhile, there are boys around her, a former roommate Benji (Zegen) habitually refers her as “undateable” while constantly conveys the impressions that he has a certain feeling for her. But for Frances, boys is never a big problem, herself, is the real mess, and too much self-concerned in the fallout with Sophie. A sudden career debacle forces her to moonlight in her alma mater, and unexpectedly, she meets Sophie again and they mend the fences, eventually Frances readjusts her career orbit and it turns out pretty well for her!
The film has its unique lustre which feels like a quintessential Woody Allen picture (particularly MANHATTAN 1979 in mind), dialog-ridden, non-sentimental coolness, and brilliant use of classical pieces to enliven the atmosphere. Gerwig gives a very lively impersonation of a not-so-likeable character, and viscerally brings Frances’ not-so-tactful life-philosophy up to life, she is far from a perfect human being, but Gerwig’s intuitive momentum pierces through all the bells and whistles, sculptures Frances as an arresting personage with fresh and blood. Mickey Sumner, who plays Sophie, is less heralded, but she strikes up an assured front oscillating between frank and vague, she is the normal kind among us who is perpetually calculating, striving and puzzling whereas Frances is a less commoner dreamer, a spontaneous Pollyanna who wants to become a spinster together with her bestie, in a more realistic world, her weaned-off ritual must undergo through a hard way, but here Baumbach manifests his mercy to offer her an easy way out, thus, the aftertaste may differ from audience, nevertheless, it is a candid film doesn’t pander to a larger demographic appeal, instead, the film tries its best to leave out an authentic character on the screen with a piquant personal spin.