Frances Ha | 2013 | 1 hour 25 minutes | Dir. Noah Baumbach | IFC
One makes a black and white movie for one of the following reasons:
- You can’t afford color film.
- You can afford color film, but your sets look like crap.
- You’re trying to do something cool and indie.
- Your movie is based on a Frank Miller novel.
Writer/ Director Noah Baumbach made Frances Ha in black and white for reason no. 3.
You may recognize Baumbach from the credits of such Wes Anderson movies as The Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Life Aquatic. Baumbach has his own roster of offbeat films, including The Squid And The Whale and Greenberg.
In Frances Ha, Baumbach directs his partner, the effervescent Greta Gerwig. Frances (Gerwig) graduated from college with her best friend and roommate Sophie almost six years ago and struggles to make a name for herself in the New York dance world. When Sophie backs out of their lease, Frances finds herself homeless. The film chronicles Frances’ adventures in finding a home.
Classify Frances Ha under the coming- of- age subgenre Finding Yourself in your 20’s. For other examples, see Reality Bites, Broad City, and Girls. It’s almost painful to watch these characters struggle in New York when it seems like moving out of New York would solve 99% of their problems. New York is apparently very expensive, even for fictional characters.
However, Greta Gerwig gives an absolutely delightful performance as Frances. Frances’ upbeat, optimistic, affable attitude inspires audiences and characters alike. I loved Frances because she acts shameless even when she feels embarrassed and keeps her head up even when her life falls down. In one episode, she lives in the dorms at her former college and pours wine to earn money. She uses her tax refund to take a guy out on a date and has to run several blocks to the nearest bank for cash because her card gets declined.
Everything works out OK for Frances. People genuinely like her. Gerwig has an adorkable manner of speech, and her physical presence feels both cute and hilarious. The awkwardly tall Frances stumbles through her life, a little smile on her lips and a little ponytail on her head. In the end, Frances finds what she wanted all along: her own mailbox.
Baumbach’s films have a reputation for being somewhat grim and hard to swallow. Gerwig, who co- wrote the film, brings an airy, fresh voice to his work. I want to think Greta Gerwig, also 27 at the film’s filming, is Frances, and I totally want to meet her. The movie feels kind of slow, but at one hour and 25 minutes, you could watch it while making dinner.
Although do not let the cover fool you. Frances Ha does very little dancing.