A movie about a woman who is struggling to accept the reality that it’s time to “grow up” and be an adult but doesn’t really understand how to go about doing that. Yep, sounds like a film I can definitely identify with. We all go through this time in our lives that we aren’t really prepared for and in Frances’ case is followed by a period of total loneliness as all of her friends have seemed to “move on” to Adult Land and left her behind. Frances is quirky, outgoing, and childlike all in a slightly annoying way, but also in a way in which we can’t help but kind of adore. Frances Ha is a subtle look into her life that, filmed in black and white, gives off a very French New Wave feel to it where style is emphasized over the script. Directed by Noah Baumbach with a script also written by him and the lead actress, Greta Gerwig, this is a film that seeks to obtain a certain something more than what the simplistic story line exhibits at first. With only a few stumbles, Frances Ha does seem to capture the essence of a vibrant young woman who realizes the need to become more grounded and despite a few weaknesses of the film itself displays intrigue and beauty in this very human journey that everybody must go through at some point.
Frances (Gerwig) seems to be stuck in a mindset in which she and her best friend from college, Sophie (Mickey Sumner), will be roommates forever and conquer the world together. This doesn’t go quite according to plan when Sophie decides that she wants to part ways in order to move into a better part of town that Frances can’t afford. All of the sudden, Frances is stuck looking for places to live and on top of that, her apprenticeship at a professional dance studio isn’t going so great either. So now Frances doesn’t really know what direction her life is supposed to be going. She does some random things in an attempt to prove to others, and herself, that she can be the poised person that everybody else has come to be such as taking a weekend trip to Paris (in which she sleeps for half of it) but ultimately Frances is stubbornly set in her carefree ways and doesn’t really seem like she is ready to change.
At only about 90 minutes long, Frances Ha is a relatively short movie that feels longer due to the fact that the story doesn’t really contain any major events. Nothing super exciting, devastating, or life changing happens to Frances and it feels like we are merely just observing this young woman trying to get along. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I mean, after all life really is just a bunch of little events for most of us regular folks. Frances is not boring though. In fact, she tries to make everything that she does extraordinary and her perspective on life, although not common among many people of her age, is fresh and exciting. Her liveliness is not necessarily naïve or immature, but is instead hopeful and positive. Many people in her life do mistake this for immaturity, however, and we are left wondering if Frances will ever cave into becoming an “adult” (We secretly hope that she doesn’t).
The one question that is on a lot of people’s minds is “What is with the black and white?” It doesn’t necessarily look like a movie that requires black and white. Is it some sort of hipster thing to make the film “cooler”? Most of the time when a modern movie comes out in black and white they need some sort of reason for it, right? Well, not necessarily. However, I loved the black and white in Frances Ha. As mentioned before, it felt very French New Wave-y and the story could definitely be characteristic of a French New Wave classic so I can see what Baumbach was trying to get at. Also, I thought it was a wonderful contrast to Frances’ personality. Frances is bubbly and happy-go-lucky and quirky and she brings her own colors to a black and white world. I thought the decision to make this film black and white only went to emphasize this about Frances and I think it did that very well.
Overall, I liked Frances Ha, but at the same time I will admit that it didn’t blow me away or anything. Gerwig was great as Frances and although I’m sure some will find her annoying and childish, I thought she was charming and found myself rooting for her to persevere in a world that seemed to be trying to take her lightheartedness away. The film is funny in a way that you will find yourself laughing at just how true to life it can be. I found that many of the things Frances would say in conversation to her friends sounded like something that my friends would say. The only criticism I have of the film is that the narrative did suffer through some unsure moments it seemed and Baumbach chose to tell the story in a way that would jump over significant amounts of time. This is good in some instances, such as in once scene where Sophie informs Frances that she is moving out and the next scene is of Frances looking around at her (mostly) empty apartment. But I found the jumping around to be a little disorienting near the end in which we jump immediately to Frances at a steady job in which she choreographs in her spare time (thinking to myself “Woah, how did we get here?”) All in all, Frances Ha is relatable, quirky-funny, and cute enough that you will most likely forgive it for its minor faults. Probably not an instant classic but is definitely a refreshing piece of feel-good cinema.