Monday, November 11, 2013


This week's top pick is the charming little indie "Frances Ha", starring Greta Gerwig as the title character. The almost-mumblecore plot of this film follows an aspiring modern dancer in New York City, who stumbles along the way to achieving her dreams. Struggling to make the jump from apprentice to company dancer, she finds herself in a minor crisis. As she tries to figure everything out, we watch as she simultaneously deals with various relationships, including a best friend who seems to be forging her own path in life.
What's immediately clear as you watch the film, is that it portrays a very specific subsection of society (i.e. Brooklyn hipsters). While there is definitely a discernible plot, the film is more concerned with capturing the tone and mood of Frances and her world. Thankfully, Gerwig is up to the task, as she fully embodies the character and its associated lifestyle. She's quirky and carefree with undeniably "white middle-class" problems. Indeed, this proves to be the crux of the entire film. If you can sympathize with Frances' struggle, then you're more likely to jive with this screenplay. On the other hand, you may alternately find her predicament unworthy of your concern (which seems to be the main issue for the film's detractors).
Even so, the screenplay (written by Baumbach and Gerwig herself) does a lot of work to help you to at least empathize with her situation. It's really a great portrait of your mid to late 20s, when you're too young for a midlife crisis, but old enough to be wary of your lack of direction. Haven't we all been there? In this regard, the subtle script manages to unwittingly tap into the zeitgeist. With the current economic situation, it's easy to dismiss her professional aspirations as folly (if you're familiar with modern dance then you'll know it's quite a curious art form and not very lucrative). However, her determination is admirable. Even as insecurity starts to creep in, (her best friend is achieving significant success in both her love life and career), she stays relatively level-headed, even taking unglamorous jobs if needed. Like many of us, she responds by meandering for a while, but she never loses sight of her dreams. You just know that she won't be content to wallow in apathy forever. As a result, I find her incredibly endearing.
Many will try to compare this film to the terrific TV show "Girls", but it's not entirely accurate. With the likable Greta Gerwig as the protagonist, "Frances Ha" is never allowed to be as acrid as Girls' many cringeworthy moments. As such, the film is less cutting edge, but certainly more accessible. As shocking as it sounds, I personally find Lena Dunham's cynical Hannah more relatable, so this film isn't as impressive as "Girls" to me. There's much to like here though, with the lovely black and white cinematography, pleasant script and affable lead actress.

1 comment:

  1. Love, love, love this one. A virtual shoo-in for my end-of-year top 10.