FRANCES HA: FILM REVIEW
Like most films, but especially with Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha, knowledge of the film’s production and process magnifies its impact. It is a particularly intentful piece of work, as it largely highlights and draws inspiration from the French New Wave in all facets of the film, from the soundtrack to cinematography. Frances Ha excellently captures the heavy, but subtle feeling of being unsure of oneself and future: baggage that all young people carry with them. However, with this unsurity also comes a freedom to dip into different pools without suffering many fatal consequences.
Frances Ha follows Frances (Greta Gerwig) as she tries to navigate being on her own in New York as a 27-year-old. Gerwig embodies Frances, the film’s protagonist, and crafts an energetic and optimistic character that is likable, despite her obvious short comings. Frances’ best friend is her roommate Sofie (Mickey Sumner), and the two seem inseparable. However, Sofie breaks the news to Frances that she has decided to move into a better apartment with another friend, leaving Frances to move in with friends Lev (Adam Driver) and Benji (Michael Zegen). Over the course of the film, Frances tries to move up the ranks at the dance company she works at and come to terms with the fact that those in her life are no longer on the same page as she is. While Sofie has found a typical Goldman Sachs banker to date and potentially marry, Benji still clings on to his dream of becoming a writer on SNL, and Frances is torn between her passions and paying rent.
Like films of the French New Wave, Frances Ha trades in a strong narrative for art aesthetics. While Frances Ha does not touch on experimentation on screen as strongly as films of the French New Wave do, the behind-the-scenes creation of the film is considered relatively experimental for this modern age. Frances Ha was filmed using a photographic camera instead of using professional cinema lenses and was largely shot in Paris, New York, and California, as opposed to on sets. The use of smaller, more inconspicuous camera and lighting equipment allowed for the opportunity to shoot at more organic locations. The use of a photographic camera highlights the bare bones of the film, including Gerwig’s swift movements, empty space, and the cluster of New York’s streets.
As a 20-year old, Frances Ha’s youthful spirit struck a chord with me. Being young often means walking the tightrope between pretending to be sure of yourself and admitting you aren’t. Either way, a decision must be made and the next day the sun shines again and you find a way to roll out of bed (sometimes not). However, the more Frances attempts to run away from her problems, the more they catch up to her, trailing her every location, even across the globe in Paris. Often, when Frances finally comes face to face with her problems, all she can muster is a laugh. After all, what's the point? The dialogue between Frances and her peers reveal the ego-driven and needy spirit that young people possess, as they subconsciously believe that the bubble they have constructed of their apartment and their friends is the only world that exists.
To many, Frances Ha will come off as a bit pretentious, more so than many of Baumbach’s works. However, with a runtime of 85 minutes, Frances Ha does not overstay its welcome. Its ending ties a neat bow on the messy circumstances Frances finds herself in, leaving the viewer satisfied and hopeful. Even for those who find Frances Ha to be annoying, the vulnerabilities Frances expresses are strangely frank, as Baumbach and Gerwig succeed in capturing the fluidity of finding oneself in a way that many films fail to.