Monday, December 9, 2013

Movie with Abe: Frances Ha

Frances Ha
Directed by Noah Baumbach
Released May 17, 2013 / DVD November 12, 2013

“Frances Ha” represents a collaboration between two very notable personalities working in independent film at the moment. The first is Noah Baumbach, a director whose last three films – “Greenberg,” “Margot at the Wedding,” and “The Squid and the Whale” – are all very distinctive, and the second is actress Greta Gerwig, who has appeared in films such as “Damsels in Distress,” “To Rome with Love,” and “No Strings Attached,” and who co-wrote this script with Baumbach. Their product is an intriguing, alluring look at one young woman and her unique perspective on life in New York City.

Gerwig has tended to play characters who wouldn’t necessarily be described as societal outcasts, but more as misfits capable of sustaining regular conversations and relationships to a point before inevitably revealing their bizarre views on the world. That’s a fitting way of looking at her character here, Frances, who makes her living, or tries to, as a ballerina apprentice, and who clings to her best friend and roommate Sophie as if her life depends on it, constantly emphasizing their similarities and the durability of their friendship.

Baumbach has historically showcased unhappy people, be it after the dissolution of a marriage – as in “The Squid and the Whale” – or in the process of a wedding itself – as in “Margot at the Wedding.” His previous film, “Greenberg,” approached human interaction a different way, focusing on Ben Stiller’s oddball and allowing him to start up a romance with a character played by none other than Gerwig. His softer touch proved effective, and now he’s back with a more personal partnership with Gerwig that gives her a chance to do what she does best: play someone who lives distinctly in her own world.

Gerwig is the obvious star of “Frances Ha,” embodying a fickle, independent soul who, among other things, always responds to the critique that she is messy by saying that she’s just busy. The ensemble makes good use of three familiar TV supporting faces: Michael Zegen from “Rescue Me,” Adam Driver from “Girls,” and Grace Gummer from “The Newsroom.” The film’s black-and-white format helps to spotlight the starkness of the way that Frances lives her life and refuses to acknowledge or accept how things really are. It’s not an entirely gripping story, but Frances is quite a lively main character, and her misadventures prove decent fodder for light entertainment.


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