Noah Baumbach is not one of my favorite directors, at all. But, I think it was Greta Gerwig's influence -- she stars and co-wrote the script with Baumbach -- that elevate this film to greatness. That, and Gerwig's co-star, Mickey Sumner's performance as Gerwig's best friend, Sophie.
|Mickey Sumner (Sting & Trudy Styler's daughter) and Greta Gerwig drink a Stella.|
The film is about reckless dreaming, pride, and platonic love. Ms Gerwig's Frances is reluctant to abandon her dream of being in a modern dance company, despite the fact that she has little talent as a dancer. And, it is her pride that gets in the way whenever she is offered an opportunity to further her career doing something else possibly related to her art, or to fix her living situation, that finally finds her at a low point in her life, and feeling "old" at twenty-seven.
The driving force for the film is the oftentimes strained relationship between Frances and Sophie, two best friends. "We're the same person, different hair," Frances says of her and Sophie. Frances, though, is in complete denial of Sophie's serious relationship with boyfriend, Patch, and when Sophie moves out, Frances becomes unmoored, and is forced to find herself, and her life, on her own, without a friend partner to guide her (or for Frances to become dependent upon.)
This "quest" makes up a great portion of the comedy for this film, including two fabulous talky scenes. The first takes place the morning after one of Frances' most recent housemates has hooked up with a girl the night before. The girl makes breakfast for everyone the next morning, and proves what a small world this is by telling Frances how she knows Sophie, too, and seems somewhat surprised to discover that she is meeting the Frances that Sophie had described to her.
The second is a real tour de force for Ms Gerwig, and is an extremely touching and moving sequence, because I know I have personally felt exactly how Frances feels at this time in her life in this particular type of social situation. Frances by this point is "crashing" basically at one of the dance company's member's houses, and then ends up "crashing" a dinner party, as well. Frances is well out of her depth amongst these very successful people, and perhaps, has too much to drink. Her attempts at making herself heard and understood are frazzled and disjointed, sometimes dropped altogether, until finally through the haze of smoke and drink, she is able to articulate her personal Mission Statement for what she sees as true love.
I have been there, Sister. A down on his luck beggar at the banquet, intimidated by wealth and breeding, rubbing shoulders with folks my own age or younger who were already so much more successful than me, folks that had figured it out already, how to live life, and made it seem so easy. And, me, desperate to prove my worth or intelligence or passion, whilst in the back corners of my mind, feeling I would never measure up, period.
The film is shot in black and white, which plays here as crisp and refreshing, and Frances Ha's most obvious influences are mid to late Seventies Woody Allen films -- there is a nighttime interior scene in a cafe that can remind you of the Elaine's sequence in Manhattan -- and the French New Wave films of Francois Truffaut. There are exuberant elegant character illuminating montage sequences, played alongside George Delerue music -- a composer who did much work for Truffaut and Godard -- that bring this influence to the fore, and, for fun, the script even has Sophie namecheck Jean-Pierre Léaud.
Highly recommended by me and the Wife. (The Wife really liked it. She liked the film so much that she was somewhat angry coming out of the theater. I figured what made her angry was why are not all films this great? Think about how many millions and millions of dollars are spent on so many films that can not even hold a candle to this cheap black and white indie film. At least, that is what I think she was thinking.)