by M. Faust
Not everyone pops out of college fully formed for the way they will cope with the world for the rest of their lives. Frances (Greta Gerwig) is one of these. She’s 26 and still calls herself a dancer, hoping that her unpaid apprenticeship with a Manhattan company will turn into a paying gig. She’s still living the life of a college student in the Brooklyn apartment of her BFF Sophie (Mickey Sumner, daughter of Sting and Trudie Styler). But when Sophie moves on to adulthood, the resourceless Frances finds herself increasingly adrift.
What sounds like ripe material for melodrama manages to stay buoyant in the hands of writer-director Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale). After two increasingly sour films (Margot at the Wedding, Greenburg) he has lightened up, and there’s no mystery why: He and Gerwig fell in love during the shooting of Greenburg, and wrote this film together as a vehicle for her. The inevitable comparison is to Annie Hall, especially if you take the Woody Allen character out of the film. The beautiful black and white photography brings to mind Allen’s Manhattan, as well as the loose-limbed early French New Wave movies Baumbach loves.
Viewers with an antipathy to hipsterism (which the polls tell us is now most of America—another media pendulum swings backward) will find the film mostly satirical of its Brooklyn milieu, with characters who say things like “You know what Virginia Woolf novel this reminds me of?” and reminisce about their time in Paris by recalling “I was there when Serge Gainsbourg died; it was the death of Eurodisco.”
Mostly it’s a vehicle for Gerwig, who came out of the mumblecore scene and for a while now has been the best part about movies like Arthur and No Strings Attached. Like her character, she’s willing to throw herself into whatever she’s doing without vanity (any scene of her eating is hilarious.)
Watch the trailer for Frances Ha
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