Frances Ha (2012)
How do you review a film that paints the very picture of your own life & puts it up on the screen for the entire world to take a look at & reflect upon? There are going to be a lot of people who’ll find nothing great about this film & might even call it annoying or inadequate. And there is nothing wrong with those people. But there are also going to be many with whom this film will strike an entirely different chord & might become something really special if they discover it beautifully capturing the little glimpses of their past or present lives. And there is nothing wrong with these people, either. As for me, Frances Ha is undoubtedly the most delightful film I’ve had the pleasure to experience this year and connected with me on so many levels that for the most part, I find it to be a reflection of my very own present life.
This indie cinema tells the story of Frances, a 27-year old woman living in Brooklyn with her best friend, Sophie, and even though she is unsure about her career at the moment, it doesn’t bother her much as her friendship with Sophie is what’s most dearest to her & remains her top priority than other things in life. But when Sophie decides to move out & live with another friend, their seemingly inseparable friendship is put to test as Frances is left on her own to figure out how to live her life. And thus we embark with Frances on her downhill adventure where we witness her living in New York but having no apartment, working as an apprentice for a dance company but having no dancing skills and even though she throws herself into vocations that have little to no chance of success, it’s her indomitable spirit & unaccountable joy that keeps her going & unfazed from the harsh realities of life.
I haven’t seen director Noah Baumbach’s past works, so really had no idea what to expect from this film, but now that I’m very pleased with the elegant manner in which he has crafted Frances Ha, I’m surely going to give his other films a try someday. Baumbach co-wrote the script with actress Greta Gerwig, who plays Frances in this film, and the screenplay is a pure gem. The conversations feel very natural & unforced, the intriguing characters are carefully developed, the humour is ingeniously presented, the influence of Woody Allen’s films is very pronounced and even though Frances Ha is about friendship & road to adulthood, it never goes ‘in your face’ or tries being a social commentary. The camera crisply captures the film in black & white to provide a timeless sense to its story & locations while also paying tribute to Woody Allen’s 1979 film, Manhattan. Editing is also near-perfect & the film makes clever use of existing songs in its narration as well.
Coming to the performances, Greta Gerwig is incredibly adorable as the endearing & undateable Frances and it is her heartwarming rendition of this cheerful character only which brings an immense warmth to the entire film. Frances is a 27-year-old woman with a weird combination; she looks older than her age but her behaviour is also very amateurish & childlike, yet there is a lot to love about her. She has the excitement & optimism of a teenager, is an amazing & caring friend, welcomes the good or bad surprises of life as it comes, her decisions are rather impulsive and she never tries to be something she is not. All in all, Greta Gerwig has done a fabulous job in bringing Frances to life & her blatant expression while delivering the dialogues plus the absence of ‘grown up’ acts add even more richness to this character. Mickey Sumner plays Sophie & her on-screen chemistry with Gerwig is simply impeccable. Lev & Benji, the guys with whom Frances shares an apartment in New York for a brief period, are also interesting characters and overall, there is something unique about almost everyone in this film.
Few viewers complain that Frances is simply an immature character who is still clinging on to her dream world instead of moving on, taking responsibilities & dedicating herself seriously to get what she wants from her life. What these people don’t really understand is that not all who wander are lost & that there are few out there who give higher priorities to other things in life than just success or failure. There is a scene in the film where Frances wonderfully expresses what she wants from life & it’s a clear sign of how much her best friend matters to her. Things change, people change & life keeps testing us all the time but most of us still wish to relive the most memorable moments of our lives or resurrect the relationships that once seemed invincible and that’s what this film is about to a certain extent. Overall, Frances Ha is an immensely satisfying comedy which handles its complex issues in a very light-hearted manner, has such sweetness & charm to it that it kept a smile on my face throughout its runtime and for the kind of film it is, it surely deserves a much broader audience. Surprisingly good enough to rank amongst the finest films of its year, Frances Ha comes one hundred percent recommended.