Film Discussion

Looking back at… Frances Ha

Oscar nominated Writer/Director Noah Baumbach called upon actress Greta Gerwig to join him in co-writing Frances Ha, released in 2012. Gerwig also took on the role of 27-year-old Frances Halladay, a struggling apprentice dancer in New York, who finds herself moving between homes when her best friend and flatmate, Sophie (Mickey Summer), chooses to move out and live her boyfriend, Patch. Things continue to unravel as she does not get kept on by the dancing company.

Baumbach’s New York story embraces French New Wave with the film presented in monochrome. Frances Ha as a title is another New Wave link as Made In The USA by Jean-Luc Godard features a character ‘Richard Po…’ whose full name is blocked by phones, honks and gunshots.  Modern Love by David Bowie is used as Frances skips through the streets of Brooklyn and across zebra crossings, echoing a similar scene in Leos Carax’s 1986 movie, Bad Blood. The inspiration is clear as in Bad Blood, Denis Lavant runs down the street with happiness and pain in his heart. Frances faces her woes and challenges, but she continues to keep going, never stopping as she tries to find happiness.

Frances Ha focuses on the ‘quarter life crisis’ which would be painfully relatable to many Millennials. Frances, like many viewers, finds herself trapped in renting out properties and moving from apartment to apartment. Instead of a promising career in a chosen field, it’s dead end jobs. It will remind many of Generation rent of ending up living in flats with people for months to a year where the relationships were built on tension and it showed the trials and tribulations of living with people who are essentially strangers.

Frances goes through a right of passage as she moves between homes and different flatmates. Every different flat presents a challenge and brings new people into her life. If living with Sophie was close to living with a mother and best friend, moving in to different apartments showed Frances having to survive in a world of bills, living with people who aren’t as accommodating of her personality and of course, privileged hipsters.

Frances along the way deals with romantic overtures from flatmates and seems to put every man who expresses an interest in her, into a hands-off zone. One of her friends remarks that she is ‘Frances undateable’ whenever they meet. It seems like Frances is unable to commit or process romantic interest and seems to have a very childlike approach to love. Perhaps the plutonic love she feels for Sophie means no one can match that and wanting to keep her emotions and love for her friends.

Frances Ha just nails so wonderfully the difficulty in your twenties of finding your way once you’ve left university, college and those safety blankets of youth behind. Anyone in their twenties can relate to this movie in one way or more. There were so many little moments in it that I’ve experienced or seen friends go through. Like Frances and her stumbling walking style that is a great analogy for how we get through those difficult years.

The scene at the dinner table where Frances struggles to fit in with those of her same age or slightly older was comedic, yet melancholy. We’ve all been there, where we clearly don’t fit in with the party and those awkward conversations we navigate trying to fit in or without betraying our career and personal disappointments when surrounded by success. Moments like these are where Frances Ha is at its best, allowing us to feel for and like Frances in these relatable social experiences.

The performance of Greta Gerwig as our anti-hero really is incredible and doesn’t fall into parody or buffoonery that it could in the wrong hands. She is an inspiring character because she falls and stumbles but keeps picking herself up and pushing on without losing her charm or innocence. When Frances finds her way, the experiences and journey feels natural and believable and makes for an uplifting end.

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