It’s easy to get drawn into all the stories surrounding a film: about the actors, the director and the process that got it made. But I want to write about this film as if I was none the wiser when I sat down in my seat. I wasn’t: I read this story in the New Yorker and listened to the podcast with Noah Baumbach on Marc Maron’s WTF. But the reason I’m trying a fresh approach is because sometimes a film can suffer with too much backstory, and I think this is certainly the case with this film.
The story of Frances Ha follows its main character, Frances dealing with that moment we all face at some point: we have to stop planning our life, and instead start living it. The catalyst for this is a change in her relationship with her best friend Sophie. And that’s all you need to know about the plot if you want to see it, and you should because it’s a great film.
It’s shot in black and white, and that with the editing and composition make Frances Ha feel like a cross between a Nouvelle Vague film and Woody Allen’s Manhattan. The borough of Manhattan plays an interesting backdrop. It looms on the horizon as a beacon of achievement. It’s where everyone wants to be, but remains elusive because no one can afford to live there.
The characters struggle and constantly compare themselves against one another making Frances Ha feel like a very truthful film, and it would be easy to dismiss Frances’ first world problems were it not for Greta Gerwig’s performance. The more time you spend time with Frances – and you spend a lot, there’s hardly a frame she doesn’t feature – the more you grow to like her. She’s not kooky or irritatingly self-referential. Frances seems genuinely unaware at just how quickly her life is sliding away from her – until everyone starts to ask her age. It’s a very compassionate performance. Gerwig is also a fantastically physical actor: her Frances is gangly and forever stumbling and tripping over things. And I don’t know if it’s just me, but there’s something about her eyes that reminds me of Alfred Molina.
The other great thing about Frances Ha is the witty script, although the screening I saw might have helped: one guy kept shouting, ‘no way!’ or ‘oh my God!’ at the more cringe worthy moments. Also when we arrived, the cinema’s usher directed us to, ‘go this way to see Frances Ha Ha Ha.’ Good omens indeed.